CTOs are technologists at heart – that is the general consensus in the technology community.
However, David Weinberg, CTO and co-founder, at Vervoe believes the role of the CTO will become more strategic and less technical. It is true that CTOs have to have a firm eye on business strategy, and only implement technologies that align with business goals.
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“It will be more about the application of technologies without having to be an expert in the technologies themselves,” said Weinberg in an interview with Information Age this week. “The CTO will be more of the person who finds opportunity or has the vision than the person who actually solves the problem.”
Looking to the future
Weinberg describes himself as a vision and product CTO. He tends to live 6-18 months in the future, thinking about how his team can use technology in creative ways to fundamentally improve the hiring experience for employers and job satisfaction for employees. This is a critical trait for the CTO, whether he or she is product-focused, engineering-focused or maintenance-focused. Looking to the future and planning ahead are key to success.
“I don’t spend much time writing code, instead I spend my time thinking strategically about the future direction of our business,” said Weinberg.
The role of the CTO is taxing and “you need a very understanding and supportive family,” explained Weinberg. “It’s not the kind of job where you can easily switch off.”
To succeed, CTOs need to have a deep understanding of the market they operate in and a broad knowledge across lots of different technologies. “The ability to go very deep very quickly on any single technology,” is essential, said Weinberg.
What’s the best way to understand the market? According to Weinberg, the best way is to surround yourself by people who can feed you key information and insights. “That way you can distill information into patterns and opportunities, and act upon them. In my case, the person I rely on for this is my co-founder and CEO.”
‘Market intelligence is critical’
Having reliable market intelligence is critical to the role of the CTO. This is because “the only way to truly innovate is to find creative and accessible solutions to the difficult, very real problems faced by your customers,” said Weinberg.
“The best kind of problems are the ones that people don’t even realise are problems until you provide them with a solution. To find them it’s more important to understand your market and industry then any particular technology.”
‘As CTO you are responsible for both engineering and product’
The CTO’s role is evolving, and has many aspects. At its core, however, the CTO is responsible for both engineering and product.
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This is slightly paradoxical, as engineers and product people are typically very different types of people. “You can reason with engineers using cold logic, and most of the time there is quantifiable right or wrong answer,” said Weinberg.
“With product design, there is typically no strict right or wrong answer. Everything needs to be debated subjectively, alternate theories need to be compared and decisions often need to be made based on intuition.”
“Customer demand needs to be reconciled with the need to innovate and explore new frontiers. It requires a different part of the brain than engineering. I have to use both, and in all honesty it’s something I’m still trying to master.”