CTO Job Description
Chief technology officers (CTOs) are C-suite executives with a wide range of responsibilities that have one common theme: technology. In smaller companies, the CTO is usually directly involved with product development, which can include everything from research to development to IT support. CTOs of larger organizations tend to adopt more managerial roles, delegating responsibilities to different departments, leading teams, and overseeing the budget. No matter what company a CTO works for, their primary concern is aligning a company’s technology with its business goals. That requires an extensive technological background on top of business savvy, not to mention skill for strategic and analytical thinking.Chief technology officer is a full-time position that reports directly to the CEO.
CTO Duties and Responsibilities
Develop Business Strategy
As companies become more dependent on technology, the CTO’s thorough understanding of how technology impacts everything from production to marketability to customer satisfaction plays a vital role in developing a winning business strategy.
Develop Technological Strategy
It’s imperative that CTOs stay current with tech’s constantly evolving trends so that theirorganizations can operate at the highest level.The CTO strategizes how to best utilize the latest innovations to improve productivity and efficiency.
The CTO uses technology to create new company objectives,streamline internal operations, and establish procedures for tech-dependent departments, such as research and development and IT.
Chief technology officers create and monitor the research and development budget, often in collaboration with department heads and other executives.
Lead Research and Development
The CTO delegates the day-to-day responsibilities to teams of developers, engineers, and IT personnel. In larger companies, the CTO appoints department heads to manage these teams. CTOs of smaller companies and startups are often tasked with recruiting talent to fill out an R&D department.
CTO Skills and Qualifications
Chief technology officers have a mind for business as well as science, meaning they understand the intricacies of technology while keeping a company’s priorities in mind. Desirable candidates usually have five to 15 years of experience in their field, plus the following skills:
- Advanced technological expertise – whether their background is in software development, networking systems, information security, or even engineering, all CTOs have a demonstrated work history in tech. They’re also familiar with the latest industry trends and research
- Budgeting – understanding how to prepare and present a budget is crucial, and the CTO is expected to constantly maximize efficiency and return on investment
- Leadership and delegation – effective CTOs know how to manage high-functioning teams and delegate responsibilities to the right departments and employees
- Human resources – as executives who often curate subordinate teams, CTOs are familiar with the hiring and recruitment process
- Communication skills - managing teams at the executive level requires savvy communication skills, as does presenting how new technologies will boost productivity and efficiency
Tools of the Trade
Chief technology officers of larger companies spend more time overseeing operations than working hands-on with projects in development, which requires familiarity with the following tools:
- Project management software (such as Asana, Smartsheet, Microsoft Project)
- Enterprise resource planning software (Oracle, PeopleSoft, or equivalent programs)
- Budgeting software (such as Microsoft Excel, Adaptive Planning, Hubble)
CTO Education and Training
Most chief technology officers have at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering, computer science, or a related field. Master’s degrees, especially MBAs, are increasingly common. Some startups look for candidates with as little as five years of experience, but most executive-level positions at larger companies look for 15 to 20 years of technological and management experience.
CTO Salary and Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information system managers earn a median annual salary of $135,800. The highest 10 percent earn more than $208,000, while the lowest earn close to $82,000. As executives, chief technology officers receive generous benefits packages that often include stock options, paid vacation, sick leave, and health insurance.
Given how quickly companies are expanding their digital and technological platforms, demand for CTOs is expected to increase over the years. The BLS projects 12 percent job growth by 2026, which exceeds the average growth of most occupations.
There are many paths to becoming a successful CTO. Consulting the following resources is a good place to start:
First Round Review – this magazine provides industry experts a platform to share open and honest career advice and insight
CTO School – with over 2,000 members, this New York-based Meetup group is an ideal networking opportunity for anyone living in or visiting the Big Apple
Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams – Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister’s best-selling book explores the sociological challenges of managing a cohesive software development team
Rework – this candid read by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson helps aspiring CTOs kick-start their careers with tips on how to create, develop, and grow a business
The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google – author Nicholas Carr gives historical perspective of the industry and outlines how businesses might use technology in the future
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