1 The Chief Technology Officer (CTO)


This chapter covers

  • What makes a Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
  • The different types of CTO
  • The evolution from engineer to CTO
  • Determining whether a company needs a CTO
  • Top qualities for becoming a great CTO

It is fair to say that, given you are reading this book, you already have a good idea of what a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is. Yet, if all readers were to be polled on their definition of a CTO, we would get as many different perspectives as there are readers. Each description, though, is most likely right. This huge variety in interpretation is what makes this role not only challenging but exciting at the same time.

The closest counterparts, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO), are well-defined roles, with their areas of responsibility clearly understood: the CEO leads the charge, and the CFO writes the checks! Okay, a little disingenuous, but the point is, these roles are universally accepted, compared to the ambiguity around the CTO role.

For example, the dropdown list of job titles in online forms often lacks “Chief Technology Officer.” Though this is changing—specifically in the field of insurance where CTO has started appearing in job title lists—are CTOs considered a higher insurance risk?

1.1 What makes a Chief Technology Officer

1.2 Different types of CTOs

1.2.1 Prestartup, in name only

1.2.2 Funded startup: The technology expert with money

1.2.3 Established company: Their first CTO

1.2.4 Established company with CTO

1.3 Determining whether we need a CTO

1.4 Evolution from engineer

1.4.1 The first 100 days

1.5 Top 10 qualities for a CTO