Your SlideShare is downloading. ×
CTO vs. VP of Engineering
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5

Thanks for flagging this SlideShare!

Oops! An error has occurred.

Saving this for later? Get the SlideShare app to save on your phone or tablet. Read anywhere, anytime – even offline.
Text the download link to your phone
Standard text messaging rates apply

CTO vs. VP of Engineering


Published on

My talk presented with @jasonh at #monkigras. Update: video is at

My talk presented with @jasonh at #monkigras. Update: video is at

Published in: Business, Technology
No Downloads
Total Views
On Slideshare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

Report content
Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

No notes for slide


  • 1. CTO vs. VP of Engineering:Whatʼs the Difference?(And does it matter?)Jason Hoffman Bryan CantrillCTO VP, @bcantrill
  • 2. The genesis of this talk2
  • 3. CTO vs. VP of Engineering • In many startups especially, the difference between a CTO and VP of Engineering becomes blurry • There is often enough overlap that one person can do both jobs when the company is tiny... • ...but as a team expands, the need for distinct roles grows • One is not necessarily subservient to the other — both roles are critical and they must work as a team • What are these roles?3
  • 4. CTO? • The CTO is the Chief Technology Officer, and in a startup, will likely be the technical co-founder • The CTO establishes the vision and culture • The CTO must be as technical as required to validate the vision and the culture • Beyond this, the CTO is (or should be) largely outward facing — the CTO should understand the relationship between the technology and the larger world • As a company grows and expands, the CTO will be at a crossroads: become the VP of Engineering and hire a CTO, or remain the CTO and hire a VP of Engineering4
  • 5. VP of Engineering? • The Vice President of Engineering is responsible for the development and delivery of the product • Critically, this includes the recruitment of the team • Should be the exemplar of engineering • Should be an engineer that the team feels comfortable looking to on a wide range of technical problems5
  • 6. So who innovates? • Neither the CTO nor the VP of Engineering is singularly responsible for innovation; they most foster it together • They must create a culture (CTO) and a team (VP of Engineering) that is empowered to think big • Both CTO and VP of Engineering must — as a team — embrace ideas, explore them and expand upon them • The CTO must communicate them upward and outward • The VP of Engineering must distill them into shipping product or functional system6
  • 7. Anti-patterns • Because the specifics of the roles can vary significantly from company to company, itʼs hard to prescribe one “right” way to divide the CTO from VP of Engineering • Easier to define the wrong way • There are particular anti-patterns for these two roles that seem to represent common failure modes • Broadly, CTOs fail when they think that they are engineers, not communicators; VPs of Engineering fail when they think they are managers of people, not creators of useful things7
  • 8. CTO Anti-pattern: The Critic8
  • 9. VPoE Anti-pattern: The Process Queen9
  • 10. CTO Anti-pattern: The Control Freak10
  • 11. VPoE Anti-pattern: The No-Op11
  • 12. CTO Anti-pattern: The Xenophobe12
  • 13. VPoE Anti-pattern: The Upward Manager13
  • 14. CTO Anti-pattern: The Creator14
  • 15. VPoE Anti-pattern: The Cat Herder15
  • 16. CTO Anti-pattern: The Space Ranger16
  • 17. VPoE Anti-pattern: The Naysayer17
  • 18. Thank you! @jasonh @bcantrill18