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  • Writer's pictureMariane Bekker

What To Look For When Hiring a CTO

Updated: Jun 20, 2023


As a former head of engineering at multiple VC-backed startups and having recently successfully placed several CTOs at VC-backed startups with Upward, I bring a unique perspective on the qualities that make a good Chief Technology Officer (CTO). When hiring a CTO, it's crucial to prioritize a combination of technical brilliance (high IQ) and exceptional interpersonal skills (high EQ). In this article, we will explore the qualities that make a good CTO and provide tips to help you identify the ideal candidate for your startup.


1. High IQ: Technical Expertise and Strategic Vision


A CTO with a high IQ brings deep technical expertise to your startup. They possess a comprehensive understanding of cutting-edge technologies, enabling them to make informed decisions and drive innovation. Look for candidates with a strong technical background, a proven track record of successful projects, and a clear strategic vision. A CTO with a high IQ can effectively translate business goals into actionable technology strategies, ensuring your startup remains competitive in a fast-paced industry. If you lack technical expertise, consider bringing on a technical advisor to evaluate the technical skills of the CTO.


2. High EQ: Effective Leadership and Team Building


In addition to technical brilliance, a CTO with a high EQ excels in leadership and team management. Look for candidates who possess exceptional interpersonal skills, including empathy, strong communication, and the ability to inspire and motivate others. A CTO with a high EQ can build and nurture a collaborative and inclusive work environment where team members feel valued and empowered. They understand the importance of effective communication, active listening, and fostering a culture of inclusivity and mutual respect. During the hiring process, ask candidates how they would handle conflicts between software engineers to gauge their approach to team dynamics and inquire about their strategies for fostering diversity and inclusion within engineering teams.


3. Strategic Alignment and Business Acumen


A successful CTO understands the intersection of technology and business. Look for candidates who can align technological decisions with your startup's overall strategic goals. A CTO with a high IQ and high EQ possesses the ability to bridge the gap between technical and non-technical stakeholders. They have a keen business acumen and can effectively communicate the value of technology initiatives to the broader team. Seek candidates who demonstrate a track record of leveraging technology to drive business growth and enhance operational efficiency.


4. Innovation and Adaptability


Startups thrive on innovation and adaptability, making these qualities essential for a CTO. Look for candidates who possess a forward-thinking mindset, continuously seeking opportunities for improvement and embracing new technologies. A CTO with a high IQ and high EQ encourages a culture of innovation, empowering team members to think creatively and solve complex problems. Their adaptability allows them to navigate the evolving tech landscape and guide your startup through challenges and growth phases.


5. Domain Expertise and Industry Connections


Consider candidates who have domain expertise relevant to your startup's industry. A CTO with experience in your market niche brings valuable insights and connections, enabling them to make informed decisions and leverage industry relationships. Look for candidates who have a strong network and a pulse on industry trends, as this can greatly benefit your startup's growth and expansion strategies.


Finding a CTO with a high IQ and high EQ is crucial for your startup's success. By prioritizing technical brilliance, effective leadership, strategic alignment, innovation, domain expertise, and a commitment to diversity and inclusion, you can identify the ideal candidate. With the right CTO, your startup will be positioned for technological excellence, innovation, and sustainable growth, propelling you towards success in the dynamic startup landscape.

 

Mariane Bekker is a passionate advocate for women in tech, an angel investor, and the founder & CEO of Upward, a premier boutique recruitment agency connecting companies with exceptional diverse tech talent. With over a decade of experience building diverse engineering teams at leading startups, she’s navigated the intricacies of the startup landscape and understands the unique needs and aspirations of founders. Follow her LinkedIn for insights, industry trends, and valuable resources about Startups, Tech, and Diversity.


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Mariane Bekker is a passionate advocate for women in tech, an angel investor, and the founder & CEO of Upward, a premier boutique recruitment agency connecting companies with exceptional diverse tech talent. With over a decade of experience building diverse engineering teams at leading startups, she’s navigated the intricacies of the startup landscape and understands the unique needs and aspirations of founders. Follow her LinkedIn and Twitter for insights, industry trends, and valuable resources about Startups, Tech, and Diversity.

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