Technology, CTO Insights

What is a Virtual CTO? Explaining the role of a CTO and how to hire one

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August 25, 2020

A CTO (Chief Technical Officer) is someone who decides the technological direction of a company; creating a technical road-map with strategies for how the technology will be used in the business.

CTOs should not only have a good knowledge of technology, IT architecture and operations, but also the business, its operations and strategy, as they are effectively the bridge between the business and IT.

Many prospective clients who approach Atom CTO have differing ideas on what the role of a CTO is or should be, depending upon the technological knowledge already held by the founder.

Generally, the day-to-day necessities of this role would be dependant upon the company; a heavily technologically dependent company, for example one using machine learning or AI, would want a CTO who is deeply technical with domain knowledge and experiences.

On the other hand, a company who perhaps has a less technically complex product might want a CTO with more business acumen that can understand how technology can drive the business forward.

Whichever type of company you have, the CTO, being the technical face of the company needs to have the ability to manage and coach technical teams as well as meet investors and handle board meetings and the latter is very different skill set that can only be attained through experience. Many technical team leads and lead developers may have great technical skills, but may need help with developing the softer business skills they need to manage both upwards and downwards

Whether a CTO is needed for a start-up is also a good question to pose as here at Atom CTO we don’t believe many start-ups need a full time CTO to begin with.

For a company that is just starting out, rather than a CTO, it is more important to have a technical founder or lead developer who focuses on setting up the foundations of the technical frameworks rather than trying to fulfill the role they would find themselves in as the CTO of a larger company.

As the company expands, there may be sudden increases in growth which require intense and urgent development, and without these framework foundations in place the tech team may scramble to meet deadlines and complete tasks.

When you do decide to hire a CTO, it is important to focus on finding an individual who is capable of building a strong IT operation as well as thinking strategically.

As the bridge between the business and the IT, the CTO needs to be able to command the respect of developers as well as managers, executives and shareholders.

As time goes on and the team size grows, CTOs will move away from the hands-on day to day aspects of managing developers and look more to how to use technology to grow the business whether that is by entering into new territories or partnerships or finding efficiencies within the current business operations.

Atom CTO provides virtual and fractional CTO services which means that we can not only serve as the technical voice within the company but also as the person that can help you raise investment, manage vendors and internal teams

As your business grows we can help you build your technology team and will provide that consistent face to your key stakeholders and when the time comes, and if you so choose, we can help you hire a full time CTO that we can help coach into the role. Once on board, we can also serve as a technical Non-Executive Director to ensure that the business vision is maintained and suitable governance is in place for IT.

We have over 20 years’ experience working in large global multi-nationals as well as scaling start-ups globally.

If you’d like to learn more, listen to our podcast where Atom CTO co-founders Sam Noble and Bhairav Patel describe the role of a CTO, when and how you should hire one and also explain the Atom CTO model and the services we provide as virtual CTOs.