Hiring The Right CTO For Your Startup

This article was contributed by Roopa Kumar, Co-founder Purple Quarter.

It wasn’t that long back when top-rated companies were vying with each other to hire the best CEO. Fast forward to the present economy where technology dominates, and one in which the CTO (Chief Technical Officer) has taken the center stage. Finding the right talent can be nothing short of an unending odyssey in a country like India. The demand for a CTO is a recent phenomenon in the Indian job market and when there does seem to be an avenue of opportunity, companies and recruiting bodies hit a dead end when it comes to finding the right talent. Companies often face limitations due to a dearth of experience and leadership capabilities.

Getting matched with the ideal CTO is as tough as discovering a rare pearl in an oyster. But, if you do, then there’s nothing that can hinder your firm from shuttling towards success. There are several reasons for this, of course. Thought leaders and industry experts across the globe agree on the fact that CTOs are the connecting factor between firms and their customers. As a C-level executive in the upper echelon of a company’s organization, on par with the Chief Commercial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Financial Officer, the CTO is majorly responsible for spearheading a company’s innovation and technology growth story.

"I think the CTO can be the glue between technology implementation and product strategy, and can sort of make things really come together and come to life in a way that you don't see in a lot of organizations today", said by Matt Mead, CTO of Chicago-based digital consultancy company SPR

As the years progress with new and innovative technologies consistently entering the market, the CTO's role calls for constant updates and improvements. A symbiotic relationship exists between the CTO and technology which needs to evolve accordingly. In today’s digital age, CTOs aren’t just tech administrators who handle the backend of a business’s functioning; they are tech gurus on the front lines, envisioning, and spearheading newer and improved technological processes to help write a company’s success story.

Why CTOs becoming more important than CEOs

The CTO (Chief Technical Officer) and understands technology but expresses it through the language of business. The CEO (Chief Executive Officer) is the face of the company and the CTO lends a helping hand to him/her when it comes to the technical aspects of the organization. Unless the technical strengths of a company could be understood by all, it simply goes down the drain. Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were both essential to the success of Apple, but Wozniak was smart enough to realize that he was not the front man for the company; he was the genius behind the products. Every company needs a strong technological edifice, and for that, one needs stalwart CTOs.
The CTO is primarily responsible for transforming big ideas into sound strategies and products that can be easily used by customers.

The CTO, the person who is in charge of a company's technology strategy, will evolve into the CEO of tomorrow.

As companies become tech savvy, the CEO will inevitably perform the role of a CTO as well. The CTO needs to align technology with the business strategy and bridge any gap between the two. In future, CEOs—like the CTOs of today—will have to understand how technology is going to affect their business and the broader scope of itin general. CEOs have to be business-focused. They need to expertise in productivity, strategy, revenue growth and security. It's no surprise that present generation CTOs already have these skills imbibed in them.

CTO must possess both technical and business skills, which are necessary in leading organisations further into the digital economy.

The Chief Technology Officer's role is the highest position of responsibility within a company that leads the technology or engineering department. He develops policies and procedures to enhance products or services focusing on the client base. The CTO also develops strategies to increase revenue and performs a cost-benefit analysis and return-on-investment analysis.

Four Steps to Hiring the Quintessential CTO

Finding the right CTO isn't a herculean task in today’s job market. We’ve listed out a four process approach to get the job done:

  1. Be specific and chart the company’s road map
    Be unabashed about the responsibilities your desired CTO will have to fulfill. If it’s going to be a demanding role, then you need to be honest and say so. Define the current position of your organization, where it needs to be, and why being a part of that journey can be a fulfilling experience professionally. Have a candid conversation about this when you interview potential candidates, or you can even state them in the job description. Trust us, this is the ideal hook to attract the right kind of candidates. Leadership capabilities are one of the most sought after skills. Your CTO will be managing the tech department of the organization. To meet this requirement, the ideal candidate should ideally have prior experience in a similar capacity. They need to be quick thinkers who can think on their feet and tackle situations with the best strategies. They must assist in actualizing the vision of the company. They need to be chameleons who can adapt to their ever changing role as per the company’s policies, vision, and business models (as and when these upscale). Efficient use of technological resources, implementing new infrastructures to scale a company’s profit margins are some of the winning qualities that define the ideal CTO.
  2. Sell the role
    Finding the right CTO is like unearthing a gem. You will face stiff competition from several companies vying for the same candidate. You need to avoid selling yourself short in this scenario. Work your salesman skills and shoo the candidate into your Firm. List out the company’s USPs during the interview process. Talk about the different opportunities and benefits that come with the job. The more perks, the better! Discuss key points like equity distribution and autonomy. Talk about all these factors and stress on what makes your company better than the rest.
  3. Cultural Fit
    Being the right cultural fit is invariably the most important factor to look out for in a CTO. Having the right technical skills is essential, but so is being able to adapt to the new company culture. This is especially important when you are recruiting a person from another country. After all, if a person can't handle diversity and inclusion, other competencies are a waste. Moreover, no one wants to work with an unfriendly snob. In these matters, different factors come into play—issues related to dialect, having the right knowledge databank to match, emphasis on helping expand a company’s profit margins and visibility across geographies. For example, the technological requirements that a CTO needs to have in a developing economy like India may not be the same as the needs of the same in a developed nation like America. Company cultures are different, and a CTO needs to be able to fit within the same—open to adaptability.
  4. Map the key stakeholders - The Intersection between employers and potential employees
    If you are aiming at global expansion, looking for global partnerships, M&A, and looking to scale your profits big time, then hiring the right talent is the only choice you have. A key stakeholder will look for a person who is a tech whiz but who is also well versed in the business side of things. It’s important to ensure during the recruitment process that the candidate is on the same wavelength as the key stakeholders. It’s an intersection between employers and potential employees. Key stakeholders should partner the right candidates with the right role. It should be a seamless fit like a brick in the wall. You know you’ve got the hiring process done right if you manage to match the right talent with the key stakeholders’ expectations.
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