Level Up

By Patrick Kua

Level Up - Issue #108

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Level Up

September 5 · Issue #108 · View online

Level Up delivers a curated newsletter for leaders in tech. A project by https://patkua.com. Ideal for busy people such as Tech Leads, Engineering Managers, VPs of Engineering, CTOs and more.


What is a CTO?
I was lucky to join two other seasoned CTOs (Christina Scott from News International and Shaun Pearce from Gusto) on a panel event called “Journey to Become a CTO.” Before jumping into the journey, we all shared the same perspective that the CTO role is one of the worst-named C-suite, at least in terms of knowing what should be expected from the CTO.
Obviously, technology should play a large part in the role, but the scope and responsibilities of a CTO will vary, driven by the role that technology plays (or should play) in an organisation, the capabilities and other technical leaders that exist and the size/stage of a company. I’ll share two short examples (although there are hundreds of variations).
CTO as a transformation agent - When I worked as a consultant, I often worked within a longer, more established company transitioning from the “tech is a cost-centre” to a “tech drives the business” culture. These types of organisations traditionally had a CIO (Chief Information Office), whose role was to manage vendors/contracts, keep costs down and provide predictable quality of service. The role of the CTO in these organisations was to spearhead their “digital” transformation and drive the organisation to think and act more like a tech company.
CTO as a product and capability lead - Compare this to a company like Hashicorp, whose founders and CTO have a tech background. As a tech-first company (and building a deeply technical infrastructure product), this type of CTO often focuses on the R&D world, looking at what relevant new industry insights are emerging, how it fits into the broader deeper technical product and often about building or acquiring the knowledge and expertise to be able to offer this in the future.
If you’re looking for others and variations, AWS’s CTO, Werner Vogels published an article that shares four patterns he has seen, but there are many more in my experience.
If you are ever thinking about becoming a CTO, it’s less important to answer “What is a CTO?” and ask “What sort of CTO is needed?” and how that plays to your strengths, skills, experiences and interests.
Enjoy this week’s newsletter and be sure to pass it on to a friend or colleague. Want to level up your technical leadership skills? Sign up for the online workshop, “Shortcut to Tech Leadership” or take a self-paced course at the http://techlead.academy.

There is no simple answer to the question, "What is a CTO?"
There is no simple answer to the question, "What is a CTO?"
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Leadership
How Many People Can Someone Lead?
What, Exactly, Is Agile Management?
How to resign from a job without burning bridges
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Guidelines for writing useful libraries
An Introduction to the Microapps Architecture
Reviewing the Eight Fallacies of Distributed Computing
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Organisation & Processes
Team and Individuals. The how-to for a tricky balance in software development
Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Communication: How to Find the Right Balance for Your Team
Software deploys and cognitive biases
Wrong-order-o-meter (An experience report)
Tweets of the Week
Two great questions to ask about the level of agency and autonomy of teams!
Matt Gunter 🔭
@johncutlefish Which External Groups CAN your team interact with?
(Score: More is better)
Which External Groups MUST your team interact with?
(Score: Fewer is better)
A tweet that links to a fabulous research paper about why (and when) group problem solving is important.
Artem Kaznatcheev
Very exciting paper by @amaatouq, @malsobay, Ming Yin and @duncanjwatts: https://t.co/tnvUrtd8aJ

They used valued constraint satisfaction problems as variable complexity task for individual vs groups to solve, and saw that as complexity went up, groups outperformed individuals. https://t.co/DKbIFp2Ij0
Thanks for making it this far! 🤗
If you enjoyed this newsletter, please send me feedback and share with others!
Want to level up your technical leadership skills? Watch out for future dates for the Shortcut to Tech Leadership online workshop, or check out self-paced courses at the Tech Lead Academy.
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Patrick Kua, Postfach 58 04 40, 10314, Berlin, Germany