— May 30, 2019
Coding is an early stage startup CTO’s bread and butter. Young companies run lean, which means CTOs end up shouldering the duties of three different roles as their startups grow.
The chief architect position is most closely related to coding because it has the final say on the technical approach. As the engineering manager, a CTO builds a team and then ensures it develops the processes and structure needed to deploy healthy code. And as a startup’s technical executive and the “face of technology,” CTOs articulate the company’s vision to investors, customers, partners, and the press.
The complicating factor that makes these responsibilities even more challenging is the lack of support CTOs feel they have. Their work and interactions are often limited to other individuals within the company, which means they don’t benefit from the support, ecosystem, and resources leveraged by CEOs and other externally facing executives.
CTOs sometimes don’t know where — or how — to seek the guidance they need. Making that support more readily available can help nurture them and provide the structure necessary to simplify day-to-day processes and help companies scale to their fullest potential.
Knowing What You Don’t Know
In a rapidly scaling organization, cluelessness carries a hefty price tag. For inexperienced CTOs, the hardest part is even knowing what questions to ask. Without the right guidance, breakdowns are inevitable.
Novice CTOs might not think to ask whether they can hire more team members, only to find themselves lacking enough qualified coders to complete the next launch. When failures rest at the feet of overburdened, unguided CTOs, it’s natural to feel a little helpless.
Support and outside advisory resources go a long way toward grounding a CTO and keeping a startup upright and ready to roll with the punches. Because startups sometimes operate at breakneck speeds, leaders need to be able to forecast potential bumps in the road. These setbacks look dramatically different as a team grows or shrinks, but early stage CTOs who have the resources and support to handle a variety of situations can build a solid foundation for any young company.
Normalize Support for CTOs
If CTOs are less likely to stop and ask for directions due to personality or role expectations, then their organizations must provide them the support they need. These three strategies can help provide CTOs counsel when they need it most:
1. Bring experienced minds to the table. Early stage startups likely don’t have the experience or in-house resources to advise their CTOs. For CTOs who need high-level advice from industry veterans, roundtable discussions with more seasoned CTOs can be incredibly beneficial.
Venwise, for example, specializes in setting up roundtable discussions among startup executives and tech leaders. These candid peer conversations allow attendees to raise pressing concerns and exchange ideas on strategies they can implement in their day-to-day operations. CTOs who regularly attend these discussions better position themselves to solve problems, adjust strategies, and avoid feeling overwhelmed by the myriad issues they encounter as their companies grow.
2. Keep close tabs on the industry. CTOs will almost assuredly continue to be involved in coding and product development. But if they want to continue to build a team’s technological vision, they must stay updated on relevant industry trends.
CTOs should attend conventions, read up on current research, and act as a sponge for anything new and relevant. When something unfamiliar emerges, CTOs can then bring that information back to company leadership and focus education and resources on the subject. Keeping up with industry trends isn’t just about what a CTO knows — it’s about discovering what he or she doesn’t know and becoming familiar with the previously unknown.
3. Participate in executive coaching and management training. Studies show that more companies are turning to coaching services to help their executives develop self-awareness. CTOs should proactively enroll in coaching and training courses to help hone their abilities to manage people and oversee projects.
These services also help leaders continue to improve vital interpersonal skills such as listening and empathizing with staff members. Reboot specializes in leadership development and coaching, providing counsel to individuals, departments, and entire companies. Through team-building exercises, reviews, and boot camp activities, attendees learn coping and management skills that allow them to stay afloat during lean times.
The presence of such solutions shows that team dynamics become increasingly crucial as startups scale. CTOs who embrace coaching and training will further develop the skills they need to manage those evolving dynamics.
From coding to team-building and everything between, CTOs need support — especially in the early days of startup life. With the right resources, CTOs can help guide their companies through lean beginnings and toward sustained success.