My CTO job description

Knowing what’s my job as a CTO has been difficult. It took me some months but I’m starting to understand some of my responsibilities at @VoltzMotorsTech and I want to share them with you. This would be something like a vague job description for me at the moment.

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Business

I spend a lot of my time trying to understand how the company can use technology as leverage to scale aggressively and innovate. I need to understand the market, our competitors and their strategy, the needs of our clients, the opportunities, the technology itself and its limitations, and a whole lot more.

I read books, reports, decks and news. I listen to a lot of podcasts and talk with a lot of people. This is the basis for everything else.

Recruiting

I must build an amazing team. Find and hire amazing people. As well as teach key members of the team how to hire other amazing people. I source candidates every week (sometimes every day). I try to hire people with whom I can work. People that are coachable but who can also speak the truth when I need to hear it.

I also try to help building our brand as a Technology team. At @VoltzMotorsTech we created a newsletter named Inside to show the early work we do here. But this is just one of many initiatives that will come.

Processes

Of course the teams are self organized but I intervene whenever I see the processes go sideways to ensure healthy discovery and delivery processes. Sometimes I even need to establish policies like:

  1. No estimates

  2. Dedicated time for documentation

  3. Everyone part of discovery and delivery

Practices

I actively fight for a culture with healthy product and engineering practices. Budget, time, resources, workshops and much more. Sometimes I even need to establish policies like:

  1. No initiative without Customer Research

  2. No PRs without tests

  3. No manual deploys

Collaboration

I try to make people work together. Instead of me being a Chief Architect or Chief Product Officer, I try to put key people from the team in the same room and build the vision and the strategy together. I usually represent the business side so I’m the annoying one.

Prioritization

I must handle the tension between today and tomorrow. Tactics and strategy. The mouse and the cat. The cat will eventually eat the mouse (@renatovoltz is responsible for this metaphor).

I don’t prioritize tasks or user stories, no. Those are tactics. This is a higher level type of prioritization. More strategic (whatever that means).

Alignement

I try to understand other areas and align what problems and opportunities are we going to take on next. I sometimes let fires burn 🔥 and other times hyper-focus on solving a very important problem 🥷.

I have to say NO to a lot of ideas. Some are good, some are bad. A lot of people get mad with me because their ideas don’t get implemented. But it is part of my job to stop most initiatives.

Management

I try to ensure a healthy social culture. Give private and public feedback, help people build strong and trustful relationships, solve misunderstandings, do a lot of coaching and mentorship, help people grow, hear and solve frustrations, ensure diversity.

Structure

I model the social structure. This is my code, if you want. I define what teams are there, what are their names and what is their business domain. I organise restructurings, give people responsibilities and missions, move people around, etc.

This is probably the only thing that is not a collaborative work of the team itself. At least for now, this is my job only.

Evangelisation

Help other leaders in the company to have an empirical, lean, iterative and technology focused mindset. Managing change is sometimes frustrating. Specially because right now I feel like the outsider.

Coaching

I always must ask annoying questions:

  1. What is the problem that we are trying to solve here?

  2. What is the business opportunity?

  3. Do we have a business plan? Where is it?

  4. Have you looked at the unit economics?

  5. How can we do this iteratively instead of spending so much money on this?

  6. How much time do you plan to spend on this?

  7. How do you know your idea is going to work?

  8. How are we going to mesure this?

And the list goes on and on and on…

I wrote this post as a reflection on my role and my responsibilities after reading Samuel Gil’s post on the CTO role and Simon Muñoz’s post about aligning Product and Engineering. They’re in Spanish but Google Translate does a pretty good job nowadays so go and read them.

My responsabilties for sure will change as the company changes. I know that. I yet don’t know how it will change. But I’ll be happy to write it down in a year or so.

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