What Makes a Good CTO?



Published16 December 2020at16:29, updated on10 October 2022at16:21

What Makes a Good CTO? cover

What makes a good CTO ? Discover the role and the essential skills of the CTO.

Interested in the full picture? Download our comprehensive career guide on how to become a CTO.

The CTO role

The success of the CTO is largely based on their ability to deploy new technologies at the right time. And, since technology progresses every day, a good CTO needs to be fully up-to-date with current developments and challenges.

But, while they need to be tech-focused, balancing tech acumen and computer skills; good CTOs must also possess other, softer skills like creativity and strategic thinking.

Teamwork and collaboration skills are, of course, also key. To accomplish something that has not been done before, CTOs will need to work together with several in-house engineers and external vendors.

A hybrid set of skills

While no two CTO job descriptions are the same, change is common to all their functions. They must therefore be adaptable and flexible to respond to the ever-changing needs of the market and the company’s customers.

Additionally, the conventional, tech-silo figure of the CTO has progressively evolved onto a more external, customer-facing role. The CTO of today needs to possess a hybrid set of skills. With business and interpersonal skills having gained importance in recent years.

Leaving the code behind

Moreover, successful CTOs have to complement their technical skills with those needed at the senior management and executive levels.

In what is an ironic twist for a technology leader, the role becomes less technical as they become more senior. It is precisely the ability to move beyond technical specifics and towards more strategic and managerial functions what is most difficult about this transition.

In addition, a CTO must master the art of delegation and leave the code behind.

What makes a good CTO: Essential skills

Based on all the above, a good CTO should possess:

  • Excellent communication skills: The effectiveness of their position depends on their ability to communicate across departments and teams. They also need to relay highly technical information to individuals with little to no technical knowledge
  • Adaptability: In order to better support the business as a whole, the CTO must understand every angle of the business. And also know how to adapt technology to each case and need
  • Leadership: They need to operate as technology and IT team managers. Inspiring and encouraging the rest of the team to meet the strategic goals
  • Understanding of market and customer expectations
  • Exceptional organisational skills
  • Great negotiation skills
  • Strategic thinking: They need to think about the organization as a whole. They have to be able to plan ahead, identifying future problems and trends
  • Coding: While the CTO has left behind the more technical years; understanding of current programming languages is key to better communicate with engineers and be able to conceptualise more efficient and realistic technology products
  • A computer science, engineering or related university degree; an MBA or other appropriate graduate degree are always a plus and preferred in the industry
What makes a good CTO ? How to become a CTO ? Discover the role and the essential skills of the CTO

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