What I look for in a CTO

There are eight things I always look for when deciding if someone would make a good CTO

A CTO is just a title for a leader with sufficient technical experience to help guide the company through technical challenges and to represent the technical interests of the company.

When looking for a CTO here are some of the attributes I think are important:

  • Is approachable by both technical and non-technical members of the team
  • Can get up to speed on the company goal quickly and can ask relevant questions about the trajectory of the company towards that goal
  • Can articulate where the tech team needs to be in three years time
  • Can get employees excited by company goals (often by adding a tech slant)
  • Talks positively about their team and individuals within the team
  • Finds opportunities in changing landscapes (internal and external)
  • Challenges employees to think deeply on problems
  • Pushes for time spent thinking about and acting on tech debt
  • Shares interesting ideas and thoughts both internally and externally

There is a bit more to it than that, but other attributes are specific to the industry or company the CTO would be working in.

When I take on projects as an interim CTO, I put things in place to help a permanent CTO meet these attributes.

Recent posts View all


How to ignore Bullet in RSpec tests

Using Bullet during a test can pick up mistakes but also has false negatives; here is an easy way to ignore them


How we used Nokogiri to fix a sizing issue in YouTube's oEmbed

At some point, one of our calls to YouTube's oEmbed endpoint was returning videos way too small; we fixed in in our Rails application by using Nokogiri