After spending several years as a Chief in startups, one thing I have understood is that, adaptability is a very important aspect of being on top of the ladder.
Specially being a CTO myself, the amount of responsibility and the adaptability at different stages of the company is tremendous. Although it is not the most celebrated role in the media due to lack of awareness, I believe this role is a backbone for a startup in today’s world. Most of the startups in 2021 are supposedly technology companies. The main aspect of a technology company is the product and its evolution at different phases of the startup.
What changes or evolves so much in the Chief Technology Officer’s role and why is it important?
Stage 1 – The Goto Generalist
Oh! is the browser not working, ask the CTO
Yes this is true, when you are a very early stage startup with very limited technology resources and affordability, the CTO is the goto person for all of that is considered a tad bit technical. From the issues related to laptops, to the issues in the product ranging from UI/UX, development, Dev-ops, etc.
There are no limits or boundaries of issues to be handled as they are related to technology. It doubles when you are both the CTO and CPO, which is the case in majority of the startups. When you deal with the core product you start to deal with a bit of the business side too. So now you end up being involved or doing some bit of everything.
Stage 2 – Time to hire and build
Now you got some funding and you are building the tech team and start to deal with many people. Now you are only coding 50% of what you did before but you are still building the overall architecture of product and slowly stepping away from coding. You end up spending more time hiring and managing people than coding and doing the technical part of the job.
Now you have your first customers and now not only do you deal with internal team feedback, you also deal with customer feedback and have to plan the schedule out for features and improvements.
This work doubles if you also are a founder, now you also have to report the financials, product growth stats etc.
Stage 3 – The strategist
During this phase you will not code anymore and then completely be responsible for people. You will not completely be hiring, managing and scaling the team. You will be more business oriented than ever before and you will hardly deal with the technical issues.
Now you will be more focussed on resource planning than ever before and you will build scale up strategies to meet the needs of your customer.
Stage 4 – The innovator
This is probably the most explorative phase of being a CTO. Once you have the right people in place for the key roles in the technology team, then you will be exploring on new innovative approaches to increase the overall customers.
The key roles in a tech team would usually be Head of Engineering, Technology Lead, Software architects. These roles form the crux of the technical setup of the product and if these roles have good hires, it gets easy to scale the company.
While you are confident about the key people then you can get into an innovative mindspace where your goal is to either explore new solutions or techniques to solve or build something new.
These 4 stages have been the evolution of the CTO role in my experience and hence I consider it to be a very demanding position in startup.