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Cto meetup Berlin

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How the role of the CTO changes when the startup grows

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Cto meetup Berlin

  1. 1. Scaling Teams From the CTO’s perspective
  2. 2. About me Formerly at Nokia, SoundCloud, Beatport Currently: issuu @klangberater, https://medium.com/@alexandergrosse
  3. 3. Shameless self promotion
  4. 4. About the book Advice and best practices for every leader in a product organisation Five dimensions of scaling Key learnings
  5. 5. If you want a life, don’t write a book next to your job (especially when you have kids)
  6. 6. Back to the topic
  7. 7. How does the job of a CTO change over time? Assumptions: - You started as CTO of a small startup - You are coding on the critical path - Every engineer reports to you - Team grows
  8. 8. What should happen?
  9. 9. What can happen?
  10. 10. WHY DOES THAT HAPPEN? ● Organisational issues: ○ Onboarding not sufficient ○ Effort for hiring ○ Wrong hiring ○ Wrong organisation (dependencies kill you) ● Exceeded the optimal growth rate
  11. 11. Some things that happen to you - You are still the go to person for technical work, no time (or experience) to manage the new engineers - A lot of new stakeholders appear - There is suddenly a management team, where you need to be present
  12. 12. Time spent in the beginning
  13. 13. Time spent while growing
  14. 14. What happens to the role Focus shifts from technical contributions to team building and collaboration with other departments
  15. 15. What makes it even more difficult? Engineering is usually the biggest and fastest growing department in a startup Therefore all the team scaling challenges are here first! E.g.: - Career paths - Training of managers - Hiring processes - Communication...
  16. 16. What stops you from changing? - Old habits - Missing knowledge - Or… no passion for management work
  17. 17. What to do? Two alternatives: ● Hire an experienced people manager (VP Engineering) - not covered here ● Adapt and learn it yourself
  18. 18. Adapt
  19. 19. Can I still code? ● Don’t code on the critical path (that is the easiest way to NOT scale the team) ● Your task is to give context, explain, mentor other engineers ● But do technical work as long as possible...
  20. 20. Scale Yourself
  21. 21. Disclaimer ● I know that everyone is different, every company is different and there is probably not a single person/company where all these points are true
  22. 22. The 5 sins of a startup CTO* ● Pride ● Isolationism ● Being a Bottleneck ● Lack of self awareness ● Shiny technology over business value
  23. 23. Pride ● In a growing startup just staying at the CTO position is basically a promotion ● Give up the title if needed ● Accept that other people might be paid more than you
  24. 24. Isolationism ● Thinking about engineering in isolation ● To deliver business value there is more needed than just engineering ● Us vs. them
  25. 25. Bottleneck ● Sometimes conscious - sometimes unconscious ● Not cool: All communication runs through you ● Your job is to make sure that everything runs without you
  26. 26. Lack of self awareness ● What are your strengths? ● What is your passion?
  27. 27. Lack of self awareness ● If you had the choice between coding for a day or organizing teams/hiring: What would you choose?
  28. 28. Shiny technology over business value
  29. 29. Shiny technology over business value ● Use simple (not outdated) technology which delivers what you need ● Goal is to make the business successful, not to use e.g. Microservices
  30. 30. COOL / NOT COOL
  31. 31. HIRING
  32. 32. NOT COOL “I have to check all the technical work”
  33. 33. WHAT TO DO? ● Anti Pattern: We are cash restricted, we only pay very low salaries and get what we pay for ● The way to do it right: Find the right balance and pay a few highly qualified engineers (referral trap)
  34. 34. NOT COOL “ONBOARDING is mostly: There is your desk”
  35. 35. WHAT TO DO? ● Small (one team): Mostly spontaneous ● More than one team: Team rotation
  36. 36. NOT COOL “Hiring process takes ages and is unprofessional”
  37. 37. WHAT TO DO? ● Convince Management to hire recruiter ● Invest in tools ● Increase awareness
  38. 38. PEOPLE MANAGEMENT
  39. 39. NOT COOL “1on1s are infrequent”
  40. 40. WHAT TO DO? ● Very pragmatic advice: ○ Make it a recurrent meeting ○ Reserve time for long term topics
  41. 41. ORGANISATION
  42. 42. COOL “Teams who can deliver stuff fast without dependencies”
  43. 43. VALUE STREAM MAPPING
  44. 44. HOW TO DO IT? ● Build Delivery Teams: Self-sufficient teams that include all the functions necessary to develop software from idea to launch. ● 95% rule
  45. 45. WHAT TO DO?
  46. 46. COOL “Teams who understand their customers”
  47. 47. WHAT TO DO? ● Purpose of the teams ● Assign support to teams ● Let the engineers talk to customers ● Let the engineers spend time in support
  48. 48. COMMUNICATION
  49. 49. NOT COOL “NOBODY KNOWS WHAT THE OTHER TEAMS/DEPARTMENTS ARE DOING”
  50. 50. WHAT TO DO? ● BASICS: Set up regular demo sessions ● EXTRA POINTS: All departments of the company present
  51. 51. NOT COOL “I only have 1on1s with engineers”
  52. 52. WHAT TO DO? ● Identify main stakeholders ● Have a monthly 1on1 with them ● Typical candidates: Main Product, Design/UX, Marketing people
  53. 53. Summary ● Job changes radically when company grows ● Adapt or change your role (seek support) ● Take care of how to scale teams! ● Engineering is not an island
  54. 54. Thank you @klangberater

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