Guide For New CTOs

Are you a new CTO and feel you need a guide to help you navigate the process? We’ve got you!

The role can be both challenging and rewarding, as it involves a careful mix of strategic planning, team building, and personal growth. While it’sit’s not always possible to please everyone, you’ll occasionally need to make tough decisions that others might shy away from. And we know that from our 10+ years of experience working with company CTOs.

The key to your success in the first few months as a new CTO lies in understanding and mastering the less obvious aspects of the role. These are the areas that might not be immediately apparent to a technologist, but are crucial for your effectiveness as a CTO.

So, without further ado, here’s our guide for you.

Understand the Business

To be an effective leader, it’s essential to grasp your business’s goals, objectives, and the challenges it faces. Form follows function, and knowing these aspects is key to guiding your team successfully. It’s as straightforward as that.

Know Your Market

Gaining insights from our counterparts can significantly influence our projects and direction. More importantly, we can learn from their mistakes! Network groups and industry panels are excellent resources, but if networking isn’t your thing, consider dedicating some time each month to researching industry leaders online.

People Matter

Human relationships are at the heart of any organization. Embrace the highs and support your team through the lows. When things go wrong, your team will look to you for support, growth, and motivation. And remember, having a team full of talented people is a good thing. If you’re the least knowledgeable person in the room, you’re doing something right!

Set Clear Goals and Expectations

In a mature organization, you’re entering an environment with established routines, a defined culture, and strategic pillars that guide operations. Begin by thoroughly understanding these existing strategic pillars. Your goal-setting should align with them, aiming to enhance and refine their impact.

Ensure that your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound).

Encourage a culture that values agility, experimentation, and rapid learning.

Implement a goal-setting process that allows for rapid iteration and continuous feedback.

Build and Empower Your Team

The team likely consists of seasoned professionals with deep institutional knowledge. The challenge is to introduce innovation and flexibility into this established environment, encouraging continuous learning and the adoption of new methodologies without disrupting the effective core processes.

Develop Strong Relationships

Building strong relationships within technology teams varies across different organizations due to their unique cultures and operational dynamics. Adapt your approach to fit the specific environment you’re in

Optimize Time Management

Time is a finite resource, and using it efficiently is crucial for balancing technical and managerial duties. Prioritize tasks, allocate time wisely between technical oversight and managerial responsibilities, and minimize unnecessary distractions.

Risk is Unavoidable, So Manage and Embrace It

Understand your organization’s risks and develop strategies to mitigate them. It’s your responsibility to protect the company from a variety of threats.


Whether it’s changing business objectives or tech not working as planned, unexpected challenges are inevitable. The solution? Know when it’s time to pivot, and clearly communicate the reasons to all stakeholders.

Data Security is Your Job

Even if it’s not explicitly in your job description, data security should be one of your highest priorities. Maintaining a strong relationship with your DPO (Data Protection Officer) is not just important – it’s imperative.


Don’t be afraid to experiment and explore. Improving your own understanding of technology makes it easier to communicate with your team and helps you explain its benefits to the business leadership team firsthand.

Leverage Data and Analytics for Strategic Decision-Making

In your first year as a CTO, let data be your guide. It’s not just about collecting data; it’s about interpreting it, learning from it, and using it to drive strategic decisions.

Communicate Strategy and Progress

Regularly update the executive team and stakeholders on the department’s progress, sharing both successes and challenges. This transparency builds trust and ensures alignment, demonstrating your commitment to addressing challenges head-on and celebrating successes as a team.

Have Fun

The job of a tech leader isn’t easy, but you didn’t come this far for an easy ride. Your problem-solving skills, tenacity, and business acumen got you here, so enjoy the journey.

Excel in Soft Skills

A CTO must excel in soft skills like communication, empathy, and even a bit of humor to effectively bridge knowledge gaps, mediate differing opinions, and harness the team’s collective strengths.

Here are event more tips:

· Always be scaling. Your business, your product, your team.

· Flexibility matters. Your role as CTO will change over time. Stay nimble.

· Flexibility matters, part II. The market may change, your product may change, your business model may change. Stay nimble.

· Never forget that the people you work with are human. This is truer than ever in times of crisis. Be understanding, be thoughtful and be kind.

What are other CTOs saying?

“Usually, new CTOs and tech executives are ex-engineers. Sometimes, they also get promoted from team leads. In any case, they feel comfortable with tech but do not have management experience. There are plenty of resources on management out there, ranging from topics such as motivation, team topologies, leadership to strategy, that can be useful to new CTOs.

For new CTOs, it’s good to have a mentor or at least communicate with other CTOs in a particular industry. There are many professional associations, such as CTO Craft. Conferences are also a good source of contacts and they offer space for discussions.

It’s also helpful to pay attention to how other CTOs present themselves. The role of a CTO is not only about tech but also about tech marketing and advocacy, HR brand, product marketing, and investor relationships. Consequently, it’s important to develop public speaking skills.

Reading good quality books should be a given for any CTO. Personally, I am a big fan of Andy Grove’s High Output Management. The book just doesn’t get old.”

 —Sergey Velts, Founder and CTO at Cybertonica

“A new CTO needs to start as a sponge: soaking up everything from technology stack to team strengths and weaknesses. While it’s tempting to focus on solving engineering challenges at first, figuring out how the technology organization contributes to the company bottom line is likely the shortest path to success.

There’s often a web of informal stakeholders in product, design, sales, and success that all care deeply about how engineering allocates resources, and bringing them in as early as possible will build trust and enable faster and higher impact innovation.”

—Aaron Podolny, Co-Founder and CTO at Scribe

“If you are a perfectionist, you’ll never feel like your product is ready and, eventually, it will die as an idea. Test as early as you can with a quality—not perfect—product. Once you’re 70% to 80% completed with the minimum viable product, start to get clients on board. Incorporating their feedback will help you avoid additional reworks down the line.”

—Rohit Sinha, CTO at SmartPM Technologies, Inc.

“Make sure people get to know you as a person, especially the way you think and make decisions and how you lead others. You won’t have all the answers and will need the team to be super engaged to help you be successful. Great companies and products are built bottom-up and not top-down. Cover off the basics around security and risk early to avoid any surprises later on.”

—Hugh Cumming, CTO at Vena

Read more advice here.

And if you want to improve your knowledge, here are some books we recommend:

  • The Project Phoenix by Gene Kim, George Spafford and Kevin Behr
  • Crossing The Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore
  • Joel On Software by Joel Spolsky
  • Accelerate by Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble and Gene Kim
  • The Mythical Man-Month by Frederick Brooks

And if you want, as a new CTO, to outsource the software development part of the business, we’re here to help you out!

Control F5 Team
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