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What is a CTO?

This is a question that I often find myself asking, not because I’m completely unclear on what it means, but I’m uncertain that anyone else knows what it really means. My plan is to use this blog to attempt to make sense of this uncertainty, and how I can help clarify that there is more than one type of CTO with more than one perspective on how to be an effective leader.

The first type of CTO is The Strategist. The Strategist finds strength in looking over the map in the war room, and determining strategies for finding solutions to big problems, but don’t necessarily move into lower level decisions of implementation. I would equate this type of CTO to a General in the Military. They move big pieces around, but don’t necessarily have to know how to drive a Humvee. They may have moved their way up in their career by following a more traditional business path, perhaps holding an MBA, and focusing on business first, then injecting technology to solve business problems. This type of CTO is most at home at large companies with many layers of hierachy, where they can direct their Captians to achieve the larger business goals without having to get their own hands dirty in the details.

For people outside of pure technology roles, there appears some kind of mystery whenever technology is introduced into the equation. We, the technology staff are the others. To a lot of people, including those you work with, or your family, you may be seen as

What is a Hands-On CTO