Conversations in Software Development

Extras 004.1: "What does a CTO do?"

August 27, 2020 Borja Sotomayor, Jenny Farver
Conversations in Software Development
Extras 004.1: "What does a CTO do?"
Show Notes Transcript

In Episode 004: “Working in a Product Development Team” with Jenny Farver, we spoke with Jenny Farver about product development, including the various roles that you find in a product development team. Jenny herself has been the CTO of several companies and, in this bonus content from Episode 004, Jenny tells us more about the role of the CTO.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to this bonus episode of conversations in software develop.

Speaker 2:

In episode four, I spoke with Jenny Farber about product development, including the various roles that you find in a product development team. Jenny herself has been the CTO of several companies. So we also spent some time discussing what a CTO does here is what Jenny had to say. So I know that you've been a CTO , uh, in a couple of companies , uh, and , uh, I find that a lot of times , uh, you know, the CTO sounds like such a lofty in such a sort of high up like position that it's a little bit hard for someone who is just starting in software development to sort of conceive of what exactly the CTO is supposed to do. So can you tell us a little bit about what , uh, you know, what does a CTO do?

Speaker 3:

Um , well, first off I would, I would ask you basking that to every CTO you meet , um, you know, it's good to get different answers, but also , um , the fact that is that the role varies a lot. It depends on the person. It depends on the kind of company. It depends on the stage of the company. And so , um , there there's different paths, there's different types of CTOs with different strengths . Um , it's also probably worth mentioning that in most technology organizations, there's at least two top jobs. There's often a CTO or chief technology officer and the vice president of engineering. Um, and there's some, some kind of classic separations on who does what, but, but there's often too , um, just in that's just to bring all of the skills together that you need to run a successful , um , technology team. Um, so, you know, it's small companies, the CTO is often the smallest company is the CTO is often the top engineer. Um, they might write a lot of code or they might try to, they , they might help make higher level decisions about architecture, approach, language, selection, that kind of stuff. Some CTO spend a lot of their time outside the company , um, and that their job is part of the company's marketing. So, you know, by our software , cause our CTO is really smart. Um, and so they might spend a lot of their time on sales activities. They might spend a lot of their time on developer relations. So if they work , the company makes a product that's for other technologists that CTO is out there in the community, trying to get people excited about using it. Um, uh, they might just do a lot of public speaking, some of that's for recruiting and for other reasons , um, uh, for me , uh, I , I think my strengths are mostly in management and , uh, a strategy with kind of a technical background. So, you know , I came up through STEM software development, but , um, you know, in the grand scheme of things, didn't spend a lot of time there. Um, and, but I do enjoy , um, building teams. I enjoy , um, I enjoy people. I enjoy thinking about how you grow companies and all of the things that you need to change as, as a company grows. Um , so, you know, I tend to spend most of my time in those activities, I seek out workplaces where those are , um , important activities. So , um , the past three places I've been team growth was a primary team growth and evolution I would say are the primary focuses of the company. So , um , those are like exciting jobs for me to do because I knew that there was like real work to be done there and something interesting to do. Um, and so, you know, what does that mean on an average day, on an average day, I'm like reading and writing and talking to people sometimes about technology , um , sometimes , uh, about people on a technology team. So like how do we organize our teams and make sure people have fulfilling careers , um, regardless of what I'm doing, I do feel like I'm heavily using my technology background , um, sometimes directly, but often just often I just feel like an engineering education made me a really good systems thinker. And so she think just kind of about like, what does it take to turn a company from a 30 person company to 150 person company it's like constantly reinventing every little system that that company has. This is how we , um, this is what these are the rules for vacation time, and these are the rules for how to use GitHub. And these are the rules for, you know, and like, so just a lot of systems thinking about, you know, whatever we do, it will have consequences. Um, do we like those consequences or dislike those consequences and therefore, what do we do next?

Speaker 2:

What, what do you think is the , uh, the dividing line between, you know, you mentioned that there's usually a CTO and a VP of engineering , uh, and I'm, I'm guessing that also varies a lot, you know, with each individual company and the size and nature of the company, et cetera, but what tends to be like the dividing line between those two?

Speaker 3:

Um, I would say often a VP of engineering is the top engineering manager and the CTO is something else. So they might be more of a strategist. They might be more of a working engineer. Um , they might be more of an evangelist. So I would say that is the most common, most common breakdown .