From goal to plan – Putting a PLan to become a CTO #CAreeradvice #CTO

If you have decided your goal is to become a CTO, the next question is how do you make progress towards that goal? To direct your career to become a CTO, you need to commit to the goal, and put a plan in place to achieve that goal.

In this post I will provide you a data driven plan, using the Amazon Working Backwards approach.

To recap, there are 5 primary requirements you need to satisfy to become a CTO, a) a large body of work, b) great written and spoken communication skills, c) ability to attract high quality talent, d) build trust with others and e) spot technical trends quickly.

Plan to become a CTO

The plan itself comprises of elements you have to do each week, month and year. I have outlined several steps you might have to complete in each of the 5 areas.

You can take as long as you wish (2-3 years or 12-15 years), but being consistent and disciplined helps.

Body of work

Most items on this list will be “must have”. Either you have to show where you did these, or the products and solutions you built have to have the level and sophistication of success.

Area of workExperience
Understand and outline customer problemsHave you been able to talk to and solve specific customer problems and show that you can articulate the problems in good detail
Define use casesOutline what use cases are defined by the customer problems
Architect the solutionDisplay the ability to architect the solution using components
Choose the right stackAsses the technical details of the problem to pick the right stack to build the solution
Develop MVP / early versionEither build it yourself, use no code / low code tools, get it developed or outsource it
Iterate and scale the solutionShow that you can go beyond the initial MVP
Deliver multiple versionsShow that you can build multiple versions and ship products through the stages of the product
Body of work

Communication

Most of the items in communication need not be external (For e.g. you dont need to have a YouTube video or Twitter profile) but they help if you can get inbound inquires for CTO positions that are not published.

Area of workExperience
Requirements outlineProof of documents that outline detailed requirements Tip: Most CTOs I know use a blog or SlideShare to showcase this
ArchitectureShowcase complex architecture tradeoffs that were made. Tip: If you can showcase a few on SlideShare it would be great
BlogMaintain and drive content for an engineering blog with examples of your work, etc.
SpeakingShowcase ability to connect with developers and other technical teams by speaking at conferences, etc.
VisualShow your ability to communicate at scale Tip: Record a few YouTube videos (one or two a month will suffice)
EngagementEngage with thought leaders on platforms such as Twitter (don’t need to tweet daily, but some engagement is preferred)
Communication

Talent

Most of these items will be asked in interviews and also checked on during references.

Area of workExperience
Hire talentAbility to hire first set of developers, who are willing to work on problems without clear definition
Develop talentShow that you can groom and develop talent over time. Tip: Most CTOs I know have 3-4 public recommendations on LinkedIn of people who have worked for them
Discern potentialShowcase the ability to hire early interns / young members who can be groomed over time
Performance ManageDisplay the experience to manage individual performances by either coaching or dismissal
Coach and MentorShow how you can help team members grow in their roles and careers
MotivationHelp team members achieve potential by helping them see the bigger picture, convince them to achieve greatness
Communication

Trust

Most of the items in trust are in display during interview questions.

Area of workExperience
Goal outlineShow how you can collaborate with other senior leaders to set goals that the team can align on
Metrics definitionProof that you can align to metrics, drive metric definition, and outcomes using scalable processes
Goal alignmentExplain how you worked with other leaders to help achieve corporate goals
Active listeningExamples of how you changed your mind, based on data or otherwise.
Intellectual honestyDisplay examples of architecture decisions that were made from your “gut” – how do you make decisions?
RespectHow you treat others especially those who are junior and not yet tenured
Trust

Trends

Most of these items will be based on opinions of other people’s view of you – analysts you interact with, customers you talked to, others you interviewed. The best way to showcase these is to have an opinion and outline it – in any way you are comfortable doing so.

Area of workExperience
ProcessShow how you have streamlined development, testing, release and operational processes and are adopting new trends (Agile, Scrum, etc.)
TechnologyPerspectives on open source tools, latest technology trends (Containers, Service Hub, Serverless for e.g. in 2020)
ToolsWhat tooling and infrastructure trends can you outline to help you develop faster and with fewer resources
Trust