The 4 most common myths about CTOs

By Sorin Petrov, Talent Manager, EF Berlin
Posted:
15 August, 2022

Thousands of aspiring founders have applied to EF. Many are immediately keen to take up the title of CTO, while others are a little more nervous about what the role entails. A concern that we see come up from time to time is that the CTOs will have to simply execute the CEO’s vision. 

In reality, the CTO is incredibly involved in the company’s vision and strategy. The best co-founding partnerships we see manage to leverage the expertise and creativity of both founders, to create a product that wouldn’t have been possible as a sole founder.

Myth #1: The CTO spends all day coding

While the CTO does need to have a strong technical background, they don’t necessarily need to be a coder. In fact, many of the most successful CTOs are not coding geniuses. They’re often more focused on the big picture and on strategic planning. Your coding firepower will come from the hires that you make and the resources you’re able to accumulate. The CTO might bring the initial product to life, even if only on paper, but beyond that, a strong CTO spends their time thinking about the future of the company, and the trajectory of their technology.

Myth #2: The CTO knows everything about the technology

A common misconception is that a CTO must be a mastermind who knows everything about a company’s technology stack. This isn’t always the case. While it is important for a CTO to have a strong understanding of the technology used by a company, they don’t need to be an expert in every single area.

As your product evolves, you’ll hire product owners and senior staff to take the lead on particular areas. Rather than focusing on the micro-level tech stack decisions, the CTO becomes responsible for the technical direction of the company as things progress.

Myth #3: The CTO is solely responsible for every technical decision

A CTO may be and should be involved in making technical decisions, but they’re not the only person responsible for these decisions. Other members of the executive team, such as the CEO and CFO, also play a role in making technical decisions. As you grow as leader and manager, you will learn to set goals, visions, principles that enable your teams to drive their own decisions without your involvement.

It’s the CTO’s responsibility to steer the ship. You set the course, making sure the team is on track to achieve the company mission. Not only that, you’re a sounding board for the rest of the team. Everyone is involved in product decisions and especially in a customer-first type of product, the business works closer than anywhere else with the tech teams for the product direction.

Myth #4: The CEO will do all the hiring

One of the most important skills for CTOs and all founders is the ability to hire and lead the hiring efforts. The quality of your team will make or break a company. CTOs need to be able to identify top talent and build a team of engineers that can work well together.

The rest of the team will count on the CTO to decide whether or not someone is technically qualified, and fits with the team culture.

Regardless of the industry, technology or customer base, an effective CTO needs to be able to see the big picture and have a clear vision for how all the pieces fit together.

And, perhaps most importantly, they need to be able to effectively communicate their vision to both technical and non-technical team members. A CTO is a strategic leader.

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