Want to Know the Difference Between a CTO and a VP Engineering?

I recently did a post for startups on understanding sales people.

A few people have asked me to try and define the perfect startup organization chart.  I don’t believe that one exists.  Every team configuration is different.  But I do have more insight into understanding your startup team.  This time I thought I’d try and address engineering talent.  Often I’m asked by startup CEO’s about how to best build an engineering team.  I have much experience in this domain.

Because more technology people probably read startup blogs I’m guessing this post will come under more scrutiny.  The terms “CTO” and “VP Engineering” have such stigmas associated with what they are that I’m sure some people will feel uncomfortable with the definitions I’ve put forward.  Still, I believe I’m offering an accurate representation of the ideal configuration of the main technology leaders.

This post is designed mostly for non-technical founders.  I hope many will read this and have an answer for the question, “what’s the different between a CTO and a VP of Engineering?”

Let’s start with the basics.  What makes a great tech team?

1. The CTO / Lead Architect - If you want to build a great technology company, you’ll need a “rockstar” engineering lead.  Every great tech startup needs one.  Whenever I meet a team that had a consulting firm (even a great one) build their product it’s an immediate “pass” from me.  If you don’t have somebodyinside your organization who is setting the technology direction then I’m convinced you’ll never head for greatness.  I know this will fall like a lead balloon to the many people who believe it is possible to have a [insert: startup incubator or technology accelerator or technology consultant or outsource firm] build your technology.  I don’t believe it.  Either your core is innately technical or it’s not.  It’s what makes Google Google and Facebook Facebook.

So I believe that every great technology startup has the technology visionary inside the company.  This is the person who lays the foundation of what should be built.  They’re up to date on the latest platform decisions whether it’s understanding SpringHibernate and Lucene.  Or whether it’s a big data set problem and they’re familiar with Cassandra or Hadoop.  Or whether it’s a choice between using MySQL vs. Postgres.  They’ll have a view on whether Ruby on Rails is worth the hassle.  Some CTO’s swear that it is a huge improvement in development timeframes and doesn’t cause performance issues.  Others think you should never build anything highly scalable on Ruby.  I’ve heard both arguments from CTO’s.

Trying to work without this person is like wanting to build a world class sky scraper but not having a great lead architect and civil engineer.  They provide the vision for your infrastructure.

But the problem that many inexperienced startup CEO’s make is confusing these people for the people who lead the technology team.  Most often they are not.  Your deepest thinkers on technology architecture are seldom good team leaders.  They often aren’t great at planning development work.  The best technologists often aren’t amazing people managers.  Sometimes they are introverts.

In fact, it my experience the best technologists are akin to artists.  They’re highly creative.  They’re sometimes moody.  They work on their own schedule and are often hard to manage.  They may work strange hours such as 2am – noon.  They don’t love documentation.  They often don’t love testing.  Of course I’m generalizing.  But barely.  The characteristics are so prevalent.  These people are your purists.  Your Howard Roarks.

So what is the difference between a “chief architect” and a “CTO”?  Simple. Experience.  A “chief architect” is a young version of a “CTO.”  It’s your hedge.  A chief architect still has a lofty title but they still need to prove themselves in order to become CTO’s.  You still have some leeway to hire above them if need be.

The best CTO’s / Chief Architects are purists.  They care about the quality of what is build more than they care about end customers.  They should be setting the standards for how code is developed.  Let them be perfectionists – this will serve you well.

2. VP Engineering – In my view it is important to distinguish the difference between the CTO and the “VP Engineering.”  Because these titles are so often used I’m sure that some people will have hardened views about what they mean that are different than mine.  But for non-technical founders let me offer you a definition that you can use when you build a team.  The VP of Engineering is the person who still has great technical chops but prefers not to be a coding monkey (that term is meant in the most endearing of ways).

The VP Engineering aspires to manage teams.  They feel comfortable with C++ but also have a black-belt in Excel.  They are sticklers about managing unit testssystem tests and regression tests. In fact, they are passionate about automating testing overall.  They know how to estimate work units, how to manage the agile development process and how to get the most out of their teams.  VP’s of Engineering are essential to making sure the trains run on time.  The VP of Engineering is also your primary interface to your head of product management and often the VP of Engineering is somebody you would drag in front of clients to win big deals.

And first and foremost a VP of Engineering is a people manager.  They still have the respect of their team because they’re technical by training.  But they’re that rare breed that also understand the human element.  They know how to motivate their people.  They understand the different character types and which prefer carrot vs. stick.  They know how to get people to hit deadlines.  They know when it’s OK to push hard for the team to hit a deadline even if it means yet another all-nighter or weekend.  And they know when to tell YOU to get stuffed because the team has reached maximum stress / effort.  A great VP of Engineering manages as well up as they do down.

So if I were a pure startup with 5 people I’d want a Chief Architect.  As the company and therefore the team size grew I’d want a VP of Engineering.  For me the inflection point is usually when you have 5+ developers.  CTO’s max out at about 3.  Remember, “management” is often a hassle for CTO’s, not a sign that you respect them by giving them people who report to them.

3. Program Manager – This title almost sounds like a consultant’s job.  It is not somebody that I would have on a small startup team.  However, it is one of the more critical roles as you scale your organization.  As you head into the phase where you’ve had real customers paying real money for a period of time you’ll have a whole new set of issues.  Examples:

– every time you release new features you need to update your technical documentation

– you also need to update your marketing documents including your website

– somebody needs to be sure that customer service is alerted to the new features and are trained in how to handle these functions with customers

– new features need to be rolled into PR strategies and competitor analyses

– new features need to go into the sale people’s slides so that they know the latest and greatest about how to differentiate from the competition.

Many startups have never faced these challenges because they haven’t hit scale.  Trust me, as you grow these issues become “gating items” to winning large customers and keeping them happy.  My company never became Google but at $14 million in recurring revenue and $36 million in backlog revenue we certainly had enough big clients to necessitate a very solid program management function.

In summary.  If you’re starting a company make sure you have your chief architect.  If you’ve outsourced this to a firm that has guaranteed that they know how to launch you more quickly I’d tell you that’s like trying to launch a movie but outsourcing the script to a focus group.  People will tell you it will work, it won’t.  Don’t take the easy road.  I’d rather delay by 3 months and have the right DNA inside the gate.  As you have a 5-10 person startup you don’t need a lot of technology process management.  As the CEO you can personally help manage deadlines and the Agile process.  So no need immediately for the VP of Engineering.

But as you company grows to 10-20 people you’ll want to consider adding “technology management” skills, which means a VP of Engineering.  In my view each of the CTO and VP Engineering should report directly to you and you should remain very hands on vs. “trusting them to make the right decisions.”  As you cross the $5 million mark and have lots of customers don’t forget to add the program management function.  Coordinating new product releases into the entire fabric of your company will become vital.

OK.  Post done.  Engineering teams – feel free to attack! (or add your 2 cents)

  • http://twitter.com/sbhatevara Sachin Bhatevara

    Mark,

    I have been following your blog for the past couple of months and in some ways using it as a guide and evaluate if I am doing things right with my first startup. Most of the times I have reflected on your posts and felt, I have a long way to go (especially the entrepreneur DNA series). This post makes me feel … maybe I am doing some things right and have a chance :-). My engineering team is structured the same way- have 5 developers including a cofounder / lead architect while I am the the CEO/cofounder/technical product manager that also manages deadlines and the agile scrum process. I had the same reasoning/logic as you outlined in your post for my decisions.

    Anyway thank you for all your posts and loved the understanding sales people (something I will need to start thinking about soon). Also love your This Week in VC with Jason Calacanis.

  • http://twitter.com/sbhatevara Sachin Bhatevara

    Mark,

    I have been following your blog for the past couple of months and in some ways using it as a guide and evaluate if I am doing things right with my first startup. Most of the times I have reflected on your posts and felt, I have a long way to go (especially the entrepreneur DNA series). This post makes me feel … maybe I am doing some things right and have a chance :-). My engineering team is structured the same way- have 5 developers including a cofounder / lead architect while I am the the CEO/cofounder/technical product manager that also manages deadlines and the agile scrum process. I had the same reasoning/logic as you outlined in your post for my decisions.

    Anyway thank you for all your posts and loved the understanding sales people (something I will need to start thinking about soon). Also love your This Week in VC with Jason Calacanis.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/mihai-badoiu/5/428/353 Mihai Badoiu

    CTO is just a nice title. Your definition of CTO doesn't stick. You may have different team with different needs, and the CTO will not be able to help in the way you defined. It's much better to have engineering leads who know what they are doing.

    Does Google have a CTO? No. Is there anybody at Google that matches your definition? No.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/mihai-badoiu/5/428/353 Mihai Badoiu

    CTO is just a nice title. Your definition of CTO doesn't stick. You may have different team with different needs, and the CTO will not be able to help in the way you defined. It's much better to have engineering leads who know what they are doing.

    Does Google have a CTO? No. Is there anybody at Google that matches your definition? No.

  • http://satishmummareddy.tumblr.com/ Satish Mummareddy

    http://www.google.com/intl/en/corporate/execs.h

    Doesn't Sergey Brin serve the role of CTO at Google? His title is President-Technology. :)

  • Satish Mummareddy

    http://www.google.com/intl/en/corporate/execs.h

    Doesn't Sergey Brin serve the role of CTO at Google? His title is President-Technology. :)

  • David

    5+ developers need a CEO, CTO, VP, and Program Manager? No. No company should be that top-heavy. Companies (of all sizes) should have lean and clearly defined management chains. A startup with five developers needs one person in charge.

  • David

    5+ developers need a CEO, CTO, VP, and Program Manager? No. No company should be that top-heavy. Companies (of all sizes) should have lean and clearly defined management chains. A startup with five developers needs one person in charge.

  • http://eastagile.com kenberger

    Great synopsis, and I would add:
    1. CTO is visionary, outward-looking guy. Tends to be the one to speak at confs and represent the firm's tech dreams.
    2. VP Eng is tech team manager, more inward-looking.
    3. I thought “Program Manager” was a remnant of MS Windows :^)

    Re outsourcing, I agree with *some* of the comments made so far, but would add that structures and offerings vary widely among shops.

    My company does outsourced XP/ Agile development, mostly in Ruby on Rails. The work is done largely without spec and things usually are not spelled out black & white. It worked for Twitter.com for a period of time. (click thru to find me, be sure to mention the word “plug” :^)

  • http://eastagile.com kenberger

    Great synopsis, and I would add:
    1. CTO is visionary, outward-looking guy. Tends to be the one to speak at confs and represent the firm's tech dreams.
    2. VP Eng is tech team manager, more inward-looking.
    3. I thought “Program Manager” was a remnant of MS Windows :^)

    Re outsourcing, I agree with *some* of the comments made so far, but would add that structures and offerings vary widely among shops.

    Our group does outsourced XP/ Agile development, mostly in Ruby on Rails. The work is done largely without spec, and things usually are not spelled out black & white. It worked for Twitter.com for a period of time. (click thru to find me, be sure to mention the word “plug” :^)

  • http://gordonmattey.com/ gordonmattey

    I think the confusion also holds with technical people too. For many architects, the CTO role that many aspire to be, includes the engineering management responsibility.

    The confusion comes from starting first with “titles” and then backing into the responsibilities.

    Your map serves well to clear this up. On my team, I like to separate the responsibility by roles first and titles later, here's the product development trifecta,

    - Technology Leader – what you call lead arch->CTO, but could come from any level, from rockstar developer, senior developer, principal architect, chief architect etc

    - Engineering Leader – VP eng but could be at various levels of experience – from process-oriented developers to development managers to Eng Director

    - Product Leader – for web/media products where tech+product are entwined/symbiotic, this fits into your Program Manager segment. This also works particularly well where teams are doing agile development, as the engineering function is self-organising (in terms of project mgmt), based on the priorities of the product roadmap.

  • http://gordonmattey.com/ gordonmattey

    I think the confusion also holds with technical people too. For many architects, the CTO role that many aspire to be, includes the engineering management responsibility.

    The confusion comes from starting first with “titles” and then backing into the responsibilities.

    Your map serves well to clear this up. On my team, I like to separate the responsibility by roles first and titles later, here's the product development trifecta,

    - Technology Leader – what you call lead arch->CTO, but could come from any level, from rockstar developer, senior developer, principal architect, chief architect etc

    - Engineering Leader – VP eng but could be at various levels of experience – from process-oriented developers to development managers to Eng Director

    - Product Leader – for web/media products where tech+product are entwined/symbiotic, this fits into your Program Manager segment. This also works particularly well where teams are doing agile development, as the engineering function is self-organising (in terms of project mgmt), based on the priorities of the product roadmap.

  • kamadoll

    I wrote up a post a few weeks ago on trying to disambiguate product management and product marketing and marketing programs. http://bit.ly/9TS9MT

  • kamadoll

    I wrote up a post a few weeks ago on trying to disambiguate product management and product marketing and marketing programs. http://bit.ly/9TS9MT

  • http://www.dirtyphonebook.com Damon

    You forgot to list human resources in the lower left. :)

  • http://www.dirtyphonebook.com Damon

    You forgot to list human resources in the lower left. :)

  • brucekenny

    Mark, great post – you have done many a great assist by taking the time to lay it out so well. As with most things the key is timing – VP Eng is a growth requirement once you add products and customers to the mix and the CTO is critical to kick start the growth. As a company grows the needs and emphasis in each role changes. I also appreciate you calling that there is no one right model – it depends on the people, the technology, the opportunity etc. Great post. Thanks.

  • brucekenny

    Mark, great post – you have done many a great assist by taking the time to lay it out so well. As with most things the key is timing – VP Eng is a growth requirement once you add products and customers to the mix and the CTO is critical to kick start the growth. As a company grows the needs and emphasis in each role changes. I also appreciate you calling that there is no one right model – it depends on the people, the technology, the opportunity etc. Great post. Thanks.

  • http://giffconstable.com giffc

    Yeah, while none of those companies turned into Google, but I have been lucky to work with some smart people. Agree re: customer meetings — I didn't mean to imply a pre-sales like role, but swing into important deals to provide some needed “wow, these people are brilliant!” factor.

    “I wanted non-tech founders to have a distinction in their minds between the deeply technical leader and the technical leader who is a process jock”

    Right on. On a related note, I've met a lot of star programmers who faced a career dilemma in bigger companies: they want to feel like they are “getting ahead” but then found as they got more senior that they had to do less coding and more people-management and process. Which is why great hackers should all do startups, so that it's their *company* that gets ahead and they can still code! :)

  • http://giffconstable.com giffc

    Yeah, while none of those companies turned into Google, but I have been lucky to work with some smart people. Agree re: customer meetings — I didn't mean to imply a pre-sales like role, but swing into important deals to provide some needed “wow, these people are brilliant!” factor.

    “I wanted non-tech founders to have a distinction in their minds between the deeply technical leader and the technical leader who is a process jock”

    Right on. On a related note, I've met a lot of star programmers who faced a career dilemma in bigger companies: they want to feel like they are “getting ahead” but then found as they got more senior that they had to do less coding and more people-management and process. Which is why great hackers should all do startups, so that it's their *company* that gets ahead and they can still code! :)

  • jonathanchamberlin

    Mark,

    Question regarding “remaining very hands on vs. trusting them to make the right decisions.”

    How do you define remaining very hands on? I know as a CEO you need to wear many hats and you obviously need to be aware of what's happening in your startup, but isn't the CTO and VP of Engineering the expert? And as the expert they should be able to make technical decisions better than yourself? Otherwise, why were they hired?

    I've always been of the persuasion to hire the best talent as possible and let them work their magic. There's no sense in having a CEO dictate something where he has no expertise. Limit as many barriers as possible.

  • jonathanchamberlin

    Mark,

    Question regarding “remaining very hands on vs. trusting them to make the right decisions.”

    How do you define remaining very hands on? I know as a CEO you need to wear many hats and you obviously need to be aware of what's happening in your startup, but isn't the CTO and VP of Engineering the expert? And as the expert they should be able to make technical decisions better than yourself? Otherwise, why were they hired?

    I've always been of the persuasion to hire the best talent as possible and let them work their magic. There's no sense in having a CEO dictate something where he has no expertise. Limit as many barriers as possible.

  • http://twitter.com/msleibel Matt Leibel

    Awesome stuff. Really digging the hiring advice. Maybe you will grace us with your advice on where to find – how to attract A-Team Rock Stars. As a Director of Engineering (punching above my weight class) I think its critical to be able to attract the Rock Stars (I hear Ninja is in) . VPE should be able to bring the talent.

  • http://twitter.com/msleibel Matt Leibel

    Awesome stuff. Really digging the hiring advice. Maybe you will grace us with your advice on where to find – how to attract A-Team Rock Stars. As a Director of Engineering (punching above my weight class) I think its critical to be able to attract the Rock Stars (I hear Ninja is in) . VPE should be able to bring the talent.

  • http://twitter.com/temojin temojin

    I secondyour conjectures. Only to add that at the early early stage your “CTO” and “VP” are really one and the same you want someone that can do both – code and manage. This is where there isn’t a pure need to manage. But you sure need technology visionary and yet you need someone who are hands on. Don’t limit yourself find someone you can call a CTO that can do all of it. Then as your org expands allow him/her to grow their org by hiring in key roles to scale – VP-E, architects, developers, sysadmins, QA leads. Also i would add before you have say 10 people in your tech team – a program manager within tech is a wasted headcount.

  • http://twitter.com/temojin temojin

    SatishI say respectfully you have this backwards. No self respecting CTO reports to a VP of Engineering :)

    The CTO’s role should encompass the strategic aspect of the technology needs of the company. The VP’s role is in methods and execution. For example the CTO will select the technologies and framework – smart one knows their execution team e.g. work well with the VP to know what skill-sets and competencies they have to guide in the selection. The VP’s role then is to take this framework and apply methodologies to execute on product/service goals. This way each person has his/her role in a key aspect of the technical requirements of the company.

  • http://satishmummareddy.squarespace.com Satish Mummareddy

    I’m not going to profess that I have a lot of experience to argue strongly one way or the other. I feel the reporting structure should be case by case depending on the dynamics between the VP-Engg & CTO, the ability/patience of the CTO to communicate on a regular basis with a non-technical audience and the technical/lack of technical background of the CEO.

  • alancommike

    One item that's missing is the relationship between VP Engineering and CTO. The two need to see eye to eye on technology, vision, and even management style. It's a recipe for disaster if the two most senior technology executives don't get along well.

    On the topic of CTO has introverted tech geek…. That might be ok for a small startup, but at some point I think a CTO needs to grow into the outbound technology face of the company. A VP Engineering just doesn't have the cycles to be on the road meeting with customers, investors, giving talks at conferences, publishing, etc as often as would be required. VP Engineering is all about execution. You can't execute if you're not there and focused on engineering. Of course, everything in moderation. VP Engineering does need to get out of the building too, but not as much as the CTO.

  • http://www.qedlabs.com alancommike

    One item that's missing is the relationship between VP Engineering and CTO. The two need to see eye to eye on technology, vision, and even management style. It's a recipe for disaster if the two most senior technology executives don't get along well.

    On the topic of CTO has introverted tech geek…. That might be ok for a small startup, but at some point I think a CTO needs to grow into the outbound technology face of the company. A VP Engineering just doesn't have the cycles to be on the road meeting with customers, investors, giving talks at conferences, publishing, etc as often as would be required. VP Engineering is all about execution. You can't execute if you're not there and focused on engineering. Of course, everything in moderation. VP Engineering does need to get out of the building too, but not as much as the CTO.

  • jeffsolomon

    On the f'n money. This is how it went down for Leads360. The sooner I accepted our chief architect wasn't going to manage anyone the faster we would grow and the less stress i would be.

  • jeffsolomon

    On the f'n money. This is how it went down for Leads360. The sooner I accepted our chief architect wasn't going to manage anyone the faster we would grow and the less stress i would be.

  • riccardo_larosa

    Mark,

    great article. Not to murk the waters but where does a CIO fit? I find that CIOs mostly exist in large, well established companies that have to deal with legacy back end systems and are not necessarily technical (at least not anymore).

  • riccardo_larosa

    Mark,

    great article. Not to murk the waters but where does a CIO fit? I find that CIOs mostly exist in large, well established companies that have to deal with legacy back end systems and are not necessarily technical (at least not anymore).

  • http://andrewcraze.com/blog Andrew Craze

    I did a post last year on what it takes to successfully conduct technical interviews. (http://andrewcraze.com/blog/index.php/2009/01/what-is-your-favorite-technical-interview-question/) It’s not just “answer this list of technical questions.” That’s part of why I think automated or online quizzes are a bad idea.

  • http://startupcfo.ca startupcfo

    Thanks for writing this Mark. Supremely helpful for bizheads like myself

  • http://startupcfo.ca startupcfo

    Thanks for writing this Mark. Supremely helpful for bizheads like myself

  • Harish

    Thanks for wonderful blog with some content to clear the air.

    Few questions to you;

    What is your take on startups having multiple branches. Is it advisable?.

    Secondly if you could share your experience and learning's in having worked with startups which had multiple branches ( e.g. one in US and other in Bangalore) it would be great.

    -thanks
    Harish

  • Harish

    Thanks for wonderful blog with some content to clear the air.

    Few questions to you;

    What is your take on startups having multiple branches. Is it advisable?.

    Secondly if you could share your experience and learning's in having worked with startups which had multiple branches ( e.g. one in US and other in Bangalore) it would be great.

    -thanks
    Harish

  • http://twitter.com/jonasgibson Jonas Gibson

    Great piece.

    How would/should the dynamics change if the purpose is to build a great technology based CONTENT company, where the technology is important to support the delivery of the content, but not the core of the business offering? Should you only focus on bringing on a “VP of Engineering” since the skill set of a true Howard Roarkie “CTO” would be wasted unless the technological aspects are in focus?

  • http://twitter.com/jonasgibson Jonas Gibson

    Great piece.

    How would/should the dynamics change if the purpose is to build a great technology based CONTENT company, where the technology is important to support the delivery of the content, but not the core of the business offering? Should you only focus on bringing on a “VP of Engineering” since the skill set of a true Howard Roarkie “CTO” would be wasted unless the technological aspects are in focus?

  • Anonymous

    In large companies, I often see CTO defined as what should be the CIO … basically, heading up the IT operations. I think that only in the technology sector, CTO is better defined (as you wrote, chief architect and visionary). As a lot of technology start-ups grow, the founder CEO moves over to CTO after a business-oriented chief exec is hired (e.g., shortly before or after Round A).

    I have been wondering about having both a CTO *and* a Chief Scientist in a university technology transfer scenario. If a professor is involved in the founding team but remains a full time faculty member (with all of its responsibilities and distractions), that means they won’t be leaving to devote 120% to the start-up. Someone else needs to be CTO for the company’s product(s) and mission. As Chief Scientist, the key role of the professor is recognized and can even continue if further technology transfers happen. Maybe the most famous example is NVIDIA, the graphics chip company. William Daily is a professor at Berkeley and serves as the firm’s Chief Scientist (there is a video online from his keynote at last year’s Design Automation Conference). But they also have a CTO, who I would imagine factors a lot of variables including Professor Daily’s work into the technology roadmap for graphics processors (including a new effort to do other computing besides graphics on those chips).

  • garydpdx

    In large companies, I often see CTO defined as what should be the CIO … basically, heading up the IT operations. I think that only in the technology sector, CTO is better defined (as you wrote, chief architect and visionary). As a lot of technology start-ups grow, the founder CEO moves over to CTO after a business-oriented chief exec is hired (e.g., shortly before or after Round A).

    I have been wondering about having both a CTO *and* a Chief Scientist in a university technology transfer scenario. If a professor is involved in the founding team but remains a full time faculty member (with all of its responsibilities and distractions), that means they won't be leaving to devote 120% to the start-up. Someone else needs to be CTO for the company's product(s) and mission. As Chief Scientist, the key role of the professor is recognized and can even continue if further technology transfers happen. Maybe the most famous example is NVIDIA, the graphics chip company. William Daily is a professor at Berkeley and serves as the firm's Chief Scientist (there is a video online from his keynote at last year's Design Automation Conference). But they also have a CTO, who I would imagine factors a lot of variables including Professor Daily's work into the technology roadmap for graphics processors (including a new effort to do other computing besides graphics on those chips).

  • garydpdx

    On the other hand, in my field (electronic design automation – EDA), those 5-6 people usually have different responsibilities so, title or not, you have a CEO, a VP Sales, lead software coder as VP Engineering, lead applications engineer as Director of Applications Engineering, etc. Maybe second junior persons for software coding and/or applications engineering. As top-heavy as that appears, in this field, people expect to remain at the top of the food chain as the company grows – not have additional bosses appear above them. Most team members have done time with one or more (or all) of the Big 3 corporate EDA firms, where advancement is often difficult (EDA start-up founders who are 10-15 year veterans are not unusual)

  • garydpdx

    On the other hand, in my field (electronic design automation – EDA), those 5-6 people usually have different responsibilities so, title or not, you have a CEO, a VP Sales, lead software coder as VP Engineering, lead applications engineer as Director of Applications Engineering, etc. Maybe second junior persons for software coding and/or applications engineering. As top-heavy as that appears, in this field, people expect to remain at the top of the food chain as the company grows – not have additional bosses appear above them. Most team members have done time with one or more (or all) of the Big 3 corporate EDA firms, where advancement is often difficult (EDA start-up founders who are 10-15 year veterans are not unusual)

  • garydpdx

    I'm wondering about point #1 … I recently read a paper called “The Role of the CTO: Four Models for Success” by Tom Berray of Cabot Consultants (McLean, VA) where CTO can be seen as #3) Technology Visionary and Operations Manager and #4) External-facing Technologist. Another paper labeled those as 'inward looking' and 'outward looking', and I guess that different pursuits require one or the other. In an earlier posting regarding Chief Scientists, that person would have an 'inward looking' orientation for the product while the CTO is 'outward looking' balancing their technology direction versus customers' needs.

  • garydpdx

    I'm wondering about point #1 … I recently read a paper called “The Role of the CTO: Four Models for Success” by Tom Berray of Cabot Consultants (McLean, VA) where CTO can be seen as #3) Technology Visionary and Operations Manager and #4) External-facing Technologist. Another paper labeled those as 'inward looking' and 'outward looking', and I guess that different pursuits require one or the other. In an earlier posting regarding Chief Scientists, that person would have an 'inward looking' orientation for the product while the CTO is 'outward looking' balancing their technology direction versus customers' needs.

  • Mark Long

    So the CEOs have asked you how to build an engineering team. I'd be willing to wager, twice as many have said, “I think something's wrong with my tech team, I just don't know what…or how to fix it”. Having sold our company last year and gone through the process of looking at Tech Management job opportunities (from startups to larger growth companies), I was shocked at how messed up these tech teams were, and far they let them go before making a change. So perhaps a topic for another day is, what should your growth company CEO be doing to make sure his tech team isn't going off the rails? Interestingly, I'm a few months into my new gig and there are quite a few things that need fixed and when I talk to the CEO about them he says….”you know, that's what the last 2 guys told me.” I'd suggest a future blog/article on how do you know if your tech team is any good? is it metrics? we all know that's iffy, especially early. Is it an advisory group of other Archs/CTO/VP Eng types? On one hand I'm not a fan of consultant types, on the other hand there are many CTO colleagues that I think would do a great job (and I have called on them from time to time).

  • Mark Long

    So the CEOs have asked you how to build an engineering team. I'd be willing to wager, twice as many have said, “I think something's wrong with my tech team, I just don't know what…or how to fix it”. Having sold our company last year and gone through the process of looking at Tech Management job opportunities (from startups to larger growth companies), I was shocked at how messed up these tech teams were, and far they let them go before making a change. So perhaps a topic for another day is, what should your growth company CEO be doing to make sure his tech team isn't going off the rails? Interestingly, I'm a few months into my new gig and there are quite a few things that need fixed and when I talk to the CEO about them he says….”you know, that's what the last 2 guys told me.” I'd suggest a future blog/article on how do you know if your tech team is any good? is it metrics? we all know that's iffy, especially early. Is it an advisory group of other Archs/CTO/VP Eng types? On one hand I'm not a fan of consultant types, on the other hand there are many CTO colleagues that I think would do a great job (and I have called on them from time to time).

  • http://www.accbasketballrecruiting.com Marcus Shockley

    I’d stay away from online tests. They are often too platform agnostic. We’ve had a lot more success by asking logic or design questions, and we aren’t really looking for a ‘right answer’. We are trying to figure out how a person thinks.

    I’d also say that almost all of the CTO’s and VPs of Engineering I’ve met were completely in the wrong profession.

  • erichmx

    Ok, 6 years ago I was the first hire in a mexican tech company, without a doubt I was the Chief Architect stereotype, with time I became CTO and with growth I was “forced” into being the VP of Engineering, at the time I really hated that, but out of necessity I had to start educating myself in this “management thing” and 2 years later I have to say that the main issue to me was that I didn't understood what it meant, if somebody had told me before that it was “the activities, tools and knowledge to maximize the potential of a group/organization of human beings” it would it being very attractive to me.

    I'd dare to recommend the one book that made the biggest impact on me about management: Management (Revisited Edition) by Peter Drucker http://www.amazon.com/Manageme…. It has a very logical and at the same time humanistic approach to management.