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Learn About Being a CTO (Chief Technology Officer)

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What does a Chief Technology Officer do?

The chief technology officer (CTO) is a senior executive who controls the technological requirements of an organization. The CTO is usually the highest-level information technology (IT) professional in a company. They must ensure that the software, hardware and technology processes are effective in supporting the members and clients of the business. A CTO is expected to remain well-versed in all aspects of technology. 

Other duties of a chief technology officer could include:

  • Create a strategy for technology platforms

  • Hiring IT staff

  • Collaborate with the marketing, development and operations departments to select and deliver different products and developments

  • Implement technological solutions to meet current and projected needs

  • Manage technology performance metrics

  • Inspect all system designs and changes in system architecture

  • Create standards and practices for the use of technology and ensure adherence by all staff members

  • Control the annual operating and capital budgets for technological purchasing, staffing and operations

  • Drive thought leadership, innovation and creativity

Technology is interlinked with business strategy. The CTO must ensure that this technology meets all the needs of the company or organization. As an essential executive, the CTO must focus on the long-term technology goals, and work with other executives on the company’s outlook. Often CTO’s are former developers and project managers.

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Average salary

A common salary for a chief technology officer in the U.S. is $120,143 annually. Typical salaries range from $26,000 to $283,000 annually.

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Chief Technology Officer requirements

The requirements for a Chief Technology Officer position can include specific:

Education

Employers require CTO’s to have a bachelor’s degree in a technology-related field. They often prefer you also to have a master’s degrees, such as a Master of Business Administration, or a hybrid degree that covers both skills in business management and those of business technologies.

Training

A CTO must be well-versed in the technical side of the business and must develop their knowledge of IT governance, ethics, compliance, project management, risk management, project life cycles from planning through to monitoring and control. Your specific CTO role might require that you understand intellectual property rights, government regulations, privacy, information security, and cyber crime.

Certifications

The most common certifications for CTOs relate to their leadership role and their company’s technology environment. These include: 

  • Software certifications: The best software certifications to include on a CTO resume will depend on which software applications the company you may plan to interview with uses. Some software certifications that apply to Chief Technology Officers include Certified ScrumMaster, Information Technology Infrastructure Library  and other certifications specific to programs like Google Developers Certification.

  • Project management: Project management certifications like PMI Agile, CompTIA Project+ and Certified Associate in Project Management can help CTO’s learn useful skills and will look great on a resume.

Skills

A CTO ensures that an organization is successful by deploying new technology. Because technology advances daily, you will need to continually learn and understand it’s changing aspects. 

A CTO must also possess the following skills:

  • Communication: The success of your role depends on your ability to communicate how technology will apply to all departments and projects. You may need to communicate highly technical information to people who have little understanding. 

  • Adaptability: The CTO must work in each area of the business, and apply and adapt technology to each area to best serve the company as a whole. 

  • Leadership: You will act as a manager to the technology and IT team so you must be able to motivate and encourage staff members.

  • Awareness of client needs

  • Exceptional organizational skills

  • Effective negotiation skills

  • Strategic thinking: You need to think of the business as a whole so that your team works together with a common goal. You must be able to think ahead and anticipate challenges and trends.

  • Coding: Typically considered a skill of a developer, but understanding code will allow the CTO to appreciate the work of the developers and how a project will function. Coding can be highly complex, and if a CTO understands what is required, they can be better prepared to anticipate challenges and time-frames.

A CTO should have an impressive range of technical skills. As an executive manager, they must also possess the interpersonal and soft skills to cope with managing the team and steering them towards success.

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Chief Technology Officer work environment

CTO’s work in a variety of setting’s that often include:

  • Full-time hours
  • Working in an office
  • Management of an assistant
  • Management of a team
  • Reporting to the chief executive officer
  • Work alongside the chief financial officer, chief operating officer, and chief marketing officer

CTO’s work in a variety of industries including:

  • Businesses and corporations
  • Government
  • Education, including primary schools and higher education
  • Nonprofits
  • Research science and healthcare

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How to become a Chief Technology Officer

A CTO is a respected, top-level job that is increasing in demand. This is a typical path towards the position:

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree: Virtually all chief technology officers begin their career in university. Earn a bachelor’s degree in a technology-related field such as computer science, information technology or software engineering.  A first degree will give you the basics of the knowledge you need to become a chief technology officer. It will include programming, database design, digital forensics, cyber law and data integrity. You will need a strong educational foundation to become a chief technology officer.

  2. Consider earning an advanced degree: A master’s degree in a business administration program (MBA) will help you to secure employment. Not all employers will stipulate that it is a requirement. If your first degree is not in a technology field, it would be better to consider a master’s degree in a technology-related field. 

  3. Gain experience in the field: You will require at least five years of experience working in a technology-related management role. Aim to advance through your career into management roles as you become more experienced. Use your time in lower-level positions to learn about the business operations in your chosen industry.

  4. Develop your soft skills: To prepare for a career as a chief technology officer, you must demonstrate exceptional interpersonal, analytical, leadership, decision-making and organizational skills. Aim to develop these skills as you work your way up through the levels of your industry.

  5. Apply for chief technology officer positions: Once you have sufficient experience, the next step is to apply for suitable jobs. Hopefully, you will have spent time networking and building relationships within your field as you have worked in the lower-level positions. Use your professional network to find and apply for chief technology officer positions. A logical place is to begin by applying for positions in a smaller company. Once you have proven yourself in this role, you can begin to look at larger, multi-national organizations.

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Chief Technology Officer job description example

We are seeking a highly-qualified and motivated world-class Chief Technology Officer. You will be a customer-focused technology executive and can provide technical leadership in all facets of our business. You must be ready to lead industry solutions, manage client executive engagement, cross-organizational planning and creating opportunities with the client account team. You will connect with employees at all levels, stakeholders and clients to ensure that our technologies are used appropriately.

You must be an exceptional strategic thinker, with strong business acumen. You should have a deep understanding of current technological trends. You must be an excellent communicator and public speaker, and be ready to face the challenges that today’s market can create.

This role will involve significant travel to our offices in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

As our chief technology officer, you must demonstrate our core values of integrity, value, excellence and teamwork. Your other responsibilities will include:

  • Forming new relationships with clients
  • Combining industry knowledge with customer’s needs to determine practical IT solutions
  • Increasing our growth and revenue by developing new IT products.
  • Manage our teams of experienced software developers and quality assurance engineers.
  • Ensure quality execution and timely deliverables.
  • Supervise and review technical designs and architecture for product scalability.

We need you to have the following qualifications:

  • A bachelors degree in an engineering or technology field
  • A Master’s in Business Administration
  • A minimum of 5 years of professional experience
  • Strong industry expertise with solid customer-facing skills
  • Experience in the areas of XaaS, Cloud, Analytics and IoT
  • Extraordinary and proven skills as a business strategist

If you can demonstrate these skills and abilities with a proven history, contact us to apply for the role of Chief Technology Officer.

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Related careers

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