A very interesting read by Jeff Fedor titled CTO Handbook — How to care for and feed your CTO describes the various characteristics and personalities of CTOs.

Jeff covers three types of CTOs:

  • The Technical Founder – the person that wrote the code that got the company off the ground. Has sweated to give the alpha/beta/product life and as a result any criticisms are effectively received/interpreted as “Your baby is ugly! Now where’s your Corn Flakes so I can piss in them too!” Is never far from code.
  • The Visionary – sometimes seen as the flake without any “real” deliverables. Is never far from a whiteboard. Can write code but shouldn’t.
  • The Figure Head – parachuted in, probably did or was associated with something impressive in a semi-related industry. Doesn’t know most of the company but is on a first name basis with most flight crew. Is never far from PowerPoint.

Where do I fit? Funny, I think it is a combination of all the above, except that I do know my shit, and I do have deliverables, I didn’t parachute in, and I don’t take (or try not to take) things personal when criticized 🙂 But I will let others tell me what they think…

In my view, a good CTO in one who is touch with the technological realities of his/her industry sector, and the intersection of such technologies with the company’s business goals. A good CTO is one that has great vision, and is great at strategy, both short and long-term, but also is very much in touch with the reality and limitations of things. A good CTO is one who knows how to convert a vision into reality, of course with the help of its peers and people. A good CTO is one who is good at articulating (verbally, written) the vision both internally and externally, one who knows his/her stuff (how to make it happen), one who is a great at technology evangelism, who drives technology change and adoption, who knows when to build vs. buy, what to research and what to protect, and for the case of a founder CTO, in addition it must be a hands-on individual very much so…

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