Your First Week as Startup CTO
Technology plays a necessary, omnipresent role in every modern business venture. A CTO’s role in comprehending technology and regulating its usage for company profit is therefore vital. There is no standard role defined for the startup CTO, key responsibilities may differ from one startup to another. Let us rewind and begin with the CTO’s first week at a startup. What would be your priorities? What are the key functions that a startup CTO must focus on, in these initial days? Here’s a take:
“We are looking for people who are going to be exploring the field on their own and coming back to us with the best new ideas.“- Michael Beckley, CTO, Appian.
Establishing relations with the startup management is a key factor to taking vital technological decisions in the future. If you decisions are to be valued, strong interpersonal relationships are a must. A CTO with brilliant credentials is only good if he/she can get their word across effectively. So apart from establishing great relations with the CEO, the CTO should be in constant touch with the marketing & sales team, partners, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and programmers. Identifying the smart people, interacting with them, deriving ideas and results in the process, building trust and credibility – these are things that take time, good to focus of these aspects from day one. As a CTO, you are the decision-maker, the ultimate tech ‘go-to-man’, get used to it from day one. Programmers will be working under your instructions and communicated vision. Create a process where it will not be necessary to get back to you on everything, except significant issues, or when you choose to communicate.
Study & Research
There is no luck, you work hard and study things intently. If you do that for long and hard enough you’re successful. – Jason Calacanis, founder CEO, Mahalo.com
Apart from comprehending the structure, who reports to whom, how does decision-making flow, the CTO’s early days should be spent in self-study. Understanding how IT pushes the company, the firm strategy, identifying customer needs are some key study areas. The sooner a CTO understands how a particular technology will affect the business, the better it is for the startup. When one understands, passing on the same to the team and management becomes easier. Also, initiating an open culture where each department trades ideas and strategies with the other, helps involve the entire organization in meeting tech goals.
By the first week’s end be aware, among other things, of what customer problem or issue is the product or company solving, what is the exact product that you are offering, how is the market responding to the product and is the product an additional entrant to a market with competitors, or a new market entrant.
Customers & Programmers
Innovation comes from small teams that work directly with customers.It is easy to prioritize new projects when the engineers really know the customer. – Werner Vogels, CTO, Amazon.
Programmers must be told how their priorities differ from those of the customer. A customer’s expectations vary widely from developers, the CTO’s early attempts should be at bridging the gap. Dr.Eng Lim Goh, CTO, SGI has emphasized enough on the effectiveness of meeting customers face-to-face. Apple legend, the late Steve Jobs explained the customer-product relation, and our need to understand it, in a few well-chosen words, “What is it, how do you use it, how does the consumer use it?”
For the CTO, acquainting with the startup programmers is as vital as focusing on the customer. Establishing an informal, approachable environment will help in easy exchange of ideas and information. Employees handling tech would require their own creative space to work, without been overtly told what is to be done. Learn to delegate prime tasks from time to time, so that team members grow in confidence. Also, discussions regarding to the employee’s career path and their role in the company’s growth will do wonders to their motivation.
Networking & Contacts
Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness, marketing what you stand for. – Christine Comaford-Lynch, leadership trainer and best-selling author.
Even as you make sense of which technology would best render what the company is doing, reaching out to your industry contacts for suggestions, advice or mere exposure is essential. Apart from meeting like-minded tech people, you also represent the face of the company. Famous management consultant and author, Peter Drucker made a sharp observation how, many business decisions occur over dinner and lunch. Look out for meetings and seminars, gradually you will have a network of people, who can aid you, while you may help them in return. To further consolidate our view, hear what entrepreneur and author Robert T. Kiyosaki had to say, “The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work.”
New & Fresh
The operative assumption today is that someone, somewhere, has a better idea; and the operative compulsion is to find out who has that better idea, learn it and put into action – fast. – Jack Welch, former chairman & CEO, General Electric.
A CTO’s role alters all the time, even as technology keeps evolving. It is for the CTO to constantly look out for tech that will push the company miles ahead of the competition. Positioning the concerned tech in top management focus, arguing for its cause is a well-inculcated habit. That apart, allocating an hour every day to search the Internet and your own store of contacts, reaching out to representatives for all emerging technology, can be a useful exercise. It is as noted author and speaker, Earl Nightingale mentioned,”If a person will spend one hour a day on the same subject for five years, that person will be an expert on that subject.“