In September 2018, I transitioned from my role as an Enterprise IT Architect to Chief Technology Officer (CTO)](https://www.linkedin.com/in/mswbull/).
As part of this major life event, I wanted to share my rationale and perspective on the new role.
I have always been passionate about technology, both software, and hardware.
As a child, I would spend my time learning about every technology I could get my hands on and would dream about working for a company like Sony, helping to create the next great consumer product.
This ambition remained consistent until I reached high school, where I studied Business. This subject opened my eyes to other industries, where technology is not necessarily created, but applied to achieve specific outcomes. For example, taking the latest technology buzzword (e.g. Blockchain) and making it do something useful.
I quickly discovered that the “applied use of technology” was more exciting to me than the creation process, as it enabled me to explore many different technologies, whilst still in the pursuit of a specific outcome.
Alongside my passion for technology, I have always been goal orientated and highly competitive. I am attracted to complex, large-scale, high-pressure opportunities, even when I know it will likely lead to stress and anxiety. In short, being told something is impossible, only motivates me to work harder.
When I started my career (eleven years ago), I asked myself what role would best enable me to embrace my passion, providing me with the highest level of influence and accountability over key decisions.
It was at this point I first set my sights on the role of Chief Technology Officer (CTO).
What is a CTO?
The roles and responsibilities of a CTO are not consistently defined, covering everything from technology operations management to technology innovation (and sometimes both).
At the recent Gartner EA Summit, it was stated that 51% of today’s Fortune 500 CTOs are operationally focused, with the remaining 49% prioritising innovation. On average it takes twenty-four years for an IT Professional to become a CTO, covering eight different positions.
In my opinion, it is important to split operational and strategic roles, recognising that the required skill set and behaviours are very different. For example, I have observed phenomenal operational leaders, who have struggled to define and embed a coherent strategy (often impacting the long-term growth of the business).
Alongside the different behaviours, operational and strategic roles include intense, continuous responsibilities. If combined, the strategy is often neglected, as business-impacting operational issues must always take priority.
As a result, I believe the role of CTO is strategic, sitting at the intersection of business and technology. It requires a detailed understanding of the customer, technical breadth, and depth, as well as a proven record of enterprise delivery.
With this in mind, key responsibilities include:
- Enterprise Architecture
- Technology Investments
- External Engagement
The role must cover the entire business value cycle (not limited to global services or infrastructure), partnering closely with the business function leaders.
Regardless of the industry, technology is now a core part of every business. This is evident from the “software is eating the world” revolution, where technology has been used as a catalyst to disrupt industries (e.g. Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, etc.)
As a result, I believe the role of CTO as a strategic leader is more critical now than ever before.