Finding great developers is tough. Even harder is finding a great CTO for your company. In places like San Francisco, it's constantly a competition for talent. When you see salaries for developers and CTOs in places like California, it's easy to think that those prices are inflated. From experience, I can tell you that the money great technologists make today is worth every penny.
One of the core focuses for our company Alumnify was finding a permanent fit for our CTO position. Being one of the hardest titles to fill, there was a lot of time spent and focus on making the right choice. Not only is it competitive, but also the relationship between the CEO and CTO is arguably the most important. I realized this after we selected our CTO and we began working together. Over the course of a few weeks our company's structure and culture changed. The development team and sales team were aligned and customer satisfaction improved. Almost overnight, the culture started boosting with new energy.
When I take a look at what traits of my CTO made our working relationship so successful, it's surprising. Most of the attributes that make him so valuable are not parts of the job description that people usually talk about.
Here are some of the key factors every CEO should take in mind before bringing on their CTO. These aren't the flashiest aspects of the resume, but they're what will help you and your CTO have a great relationship.
1. Your CTO Understands How You Think
One of the characteristics of my personality that everyone knows at Alumnify is I look to move fast. Complete harmony for me is waking up, closing deals for the entire workday, and repeating the next day. For some developers, this can be a nightmare. A CEO who doesn't know how to stop adding clients to the pipeline can overburden the development team. This can lead to panic among your employees and unhappy customers.
If you're like me, you need a CTO whose going to be able to understand how you work and move with you. If you're a leader that's going to push forward and move fast, the last thing you want is your product leader pulling you back. This will cause you to get frustrated and it will also result in friction between the development and sales team.
With that said, the opposite is also true. If your company strategy is to move slower and be more conservative, you need a CTO who can relax on building new features. This is as much as a communication issue as it is a personality fit question. When evaluating candidates ask them how they like pressure. Do they love the adrenaline rush or would they rather have everything planned way in advance?
My CTO loves nothing more than being way overburdened with clients and having to work the entire night to get the product out on time. This is music to my ears, because it means I can move as fast as I want with our sales force. Get your CTO on the same page as you with growth, and the alignment between your divisions will strengthen.
2. They Can Make A Customer Feel Safe
Whenever you're a tech company dealing with customers who aren't tech savvy, it's easy for them to get scared. Many times, when we don't understand something, we naturally fear it. Although you may understand the tech, there are times when only your CTO can give the assurance that some customers need.
The other nice part of a CTO who's great at customer service is that it saves so much time for you as the CEO. Instead of having to have long hours of talks about your product, bringing in your CTO lets you focus on other aspects of the business. The most important part when looking for this is finding out how the CTO interacts with your clients. Do they come off as rude? Can they explain the technology in a way that no one with any technical ability can understand? Not only do they need to be able to explain the tech to customers, they need to be able to explain it to you as well. A great product leader is willing to be patient and take timing teaching everyone in the company about the product. These may seem like small points, but having a CTO whose great with customers has saved me tons of time and made our customers happy.
3. At the end of work, you can grab a beer together and laugh off the pressure
Next to the CEO, the CTO of a tech company has one of the most high-pressure jobs in the organization. It's easy to point fingers at the leader of the development team when a product doesn't launch or the technology is filled with bugs.
As the CEO, there are so many times when you have to take the blame for your organization. While it's a rewarding position, at times it can be lonely. One of the most important reasons our CTO and I work so well together is we never point the finger at each other. When something goes wrong, we grab a beer and work on it together. Even when I really mess up on something, my CTO is there to laugh about it with me and then fix the issue.
When you're hiring your CTO, take a strong look at how things would shape up if he messed up. Would you blame him or make him feel bad? Could you see yourself working along side of him and taking the bullet when he messes up? Before you decide on bringing in someone for the position, ask yourself if you have each other's back. If you do, not only will your CTO become one of your greatest assets, but her or she will also be one of your closest friends.