I live and work in Manchester in the north west of England. Born and educated in Serbia, Manchester and the UK, where I lived for the most of my adult life, had a significant influence throughout my career.
Not only that Manchester is where first Jaffa Cakes were made - showcasing the innovation credentials of the city (yeah, this is where Graphene has been rediscovered as well, and where modern nuclear physics have been started, but none of these would happen without Jaffa cakes I’m sure you understand). It is also a birthplace of some of the most influential music of the 20th century, as well as of modern football (or soccer) as we know it - another two VERY important things in ones life.
However, all of the above mentioned events, that play a key part in the lives of millions around the world (Jaffa cakes, football and Manchester music ;)), are probably influenced by something somewhat more significant. The industrial revolution, new entrepreneurial spirit within a society, and workers rights movement, on all of which Manchester had a huge influence.
So, how does all of this relate to startups, and the role of CTO?
Well I’m also a CTO at thestartupfactory.tech, where I’m part of a small but highly influential team in the startup scene in the North, and beyond. As part of my job, I’ve worked with many startups and scaleups, from early stage to growth stages - typically taking on (interim) CTO role, or working as technology advisor to investors or on the board level in larger companies. Innovation, entrepreneurship and team building
As CTOs, we are at the forefront of technology and information revolution, which can shape up the world in the coming years. At the same time, working with startup founders, the entrepreneurial spirit becomes critical for the success of a CTO. And finally, in my experience, it is only great teams that can make great things happen - so attracting, mentoring and motivating great engineering teams to do great things becomes a critical task for a CTO, which does have something in common with modern worker’s rights, established in Manchester a couple of centuries ago.
I’m proud to say that some of the companies that we worked at thestartupfactory.tech are now much bigger than us! A couple of engineers I helped to bring onboard in a few places are now cross-functional teams of dozens of people. The technology products we designed with founders on the back of a napkin and built on shoestring budgets have now evolved into complex platforms, with features that were on our blue-sky thinking roadmap not so long ago. Some of the code we wrote in those early days is still there, but some has gone away, improved or replaced with enwer, better, technologies and engineering practices. And this feels great, being part of something that took a life of it’s own outgrowing its ‘parent’ so to speak.
However, there are challenges that all these companies, large or small, must address, on their journey from the moment their production gather traction in the marketplace and investors attention: How to keep making better product using innovative technologies, in the world where technology landscape changes so quickly. How to keep growing this amazing tech team - from attracting the best engineers to ensuring constant stream of smart but less experienced engineering coming up, all while ensuring that the growth is sustainable with manageable cost Possibly most importantly, how to make sure that technology we build does not exist in a bubble, so that it can be marked and sold effectively, and at the same time be able to articulate what we do and why we need that additional funding to our investors and other key stakeholders
There is a role in the company that connects these strains - the role of Chief Technology Officer. As one such CTO, my notebook, inbox and mind are always full of ideas, tasks and reminders about how to address/improve/maintain the environment about the above challenges.
Although, like in most professions, there have been difficulties along the way, based on the comments and relationships with founders and investors we came across, it seems that at least some of the things I do and practice are working. The measure of success is the demand for such work - being the first port of call, either looking for advice or fulfilling the CTO role feels great. The only thing that doesn’t scale is time - hence I have limited scope to take on multiple CTO roles, in addition to my main role at thestartupfactory.tech - so I have to limit the number of responsibilities I take on at any given time.
The overall challenge to find the right fit for a CTO role for founders and investors (with technology being the key in so many industries, every business needs a CTO nowadays, so the competition is fierce), and the demand on my time, got me thinking if we could do anything to help with that.
I met a lot of amazing entrepreneurial founders, from Manchester and beyond, and I’d love to see all those visions become a reality - finding a long term CTO, with right technical and non-technical skills can be a major challenge for them. In this series, I hope to help to highlight what kind of CTO do they need, how to establish the right ways of working and ensure successful CEO/CTO partnership.
For investors, who are looking at growing their investment, they can also hopefully get useful insight about CTO thinking and how it relates to their goals for the businesses they have a stake in.
I know that there are plenty of talented technologists out there (I work with a lot of them), who see CTO role as a pinnacle to aim for - in this series I hope we can illustrate what the role of CTO entails, compare their current skills and learn new ones to become a successful CTO in the future. And maybe, just maybe, we can get the conversation going, share everyone's thoughts and ideas and connect those aspiring CTOs with their dream jobs, at the same time people some startups into the unicorn territory - especially in less fashionable geographies like Manchester and The North, outside of established centres for funding.
So if you're interested in finding out, learning more and being part of our CTO Community please get in touch on LinkedIn or via email@example.com