The earliest traces of the chief technology officer position can be traced back to the 1950s and 1960s, when a string of large corporations established gleaming research labs out in the sticks (i.e. far from headquarters) in the hopes of creating hubs of scientists who could conjure up brilliant ideas unfettered by the constraints of daily office life.
Initially, the heads of these laboratories were entirely focused on research, science, and product development. Yet as the 1980s progressed and personal computers and mobile phones emerged, the job changed. These directors need expertise in both technology and strategy. Consequently, the CTO was created.
What is a chief information officer?
A chief technology officer is in charge of a company’s technical requirements and research and development; this is the highest-ranking tech role inside the C-suite. A CTO will oversee the technology or engineering department, keep up of technological changes, and utilize finance to assist a firm achieve its objectives.
The Chief Technology Officer is both an executive and a technologist who evaluates technological decisions through the prism of company development and strategy. The position frequently has significant weight inside an organization, and for tech-oriented companies, the CTO may be as vital as the CEO.
So, what are the duties of the chief technology officer? Sifted consulted specialists in the field to get the answer.
Omio’s chief technical officer is Tomas Vocetka.
Tomas Vocetka is the Chief Technology Officer of the worldwide travel search portal Omio. He is responsible for all of the scaleup’s technological requirements.
“What a CTO brings is firstly representing the technology, bringing the technology capabilities to the table, and ensuring that all other parts of the business understand where we stand, where we are going as a technology, our capabilities and strengths, and what we need to develop in the long-term,” explains Vocetka. “Furthermore, participate in business and strategic planning conversations and relay this knowledge to the technical teams.
“The primary responsibility of any CTO is to ensure that the company’s technology is aligned with its long-term business goals. Where do we want to be in the next year, two, or three years, and what technological skills must be established or acquired?”
According to Vocetka, the most crucial abilities for this are “soft skills” such as “empathy, communication, attempting to listen and understand what others need… and ensuring that all parties understand each other at the table.” He believes that these are more significant than technical abilities for a chief technology officer.
“When working with hundreds of specialists, there are several competing ideas, and it is frequently the CTO’s responsibility to make the final call,” Vocetka writes. Then, we must establish a moral system to guide our decision-making.
The hype around upcoming technologies such as generative AI has presented CTOs with unique hurdles in 2023: This year will be AI’s year, according to Vocetka. “We will have to treat it much more seriously now that it has become a clear industrial trend. I believe conversational interfaces will replace web-based content in the near future. It is much simpler to communicate with intelligent ChatGPT than Google… Along with everyone else, we will need to choose our position here. What does this mean for us, and how can we provide the greatest possible client experience?
The economic crisis has also made things more challenging. “On the positive side, I intend to integrate ChatGPT,” Vocetka continues. “On the yang side, we are constrained in our fiscal capacities by certain market conditions… As CTOs, we need to be far more stringent with budgets, institute cost controls, and define the business implications of every initiative we propose.”
Lethabo Motsoaledi, cofounder and chief technology officer of Voyc
Lethabo Motsoaledi is the cofounder and chief technology officer of Voyc, an AI-enabled sales call monitoring software firm. She states, “Every fire is my concern.”
Motsoaledi and her cofounder, Matthew Westaway, both graduated from the University of Cape Town with the same engineering degree. When you have two cofounders with a technical background, you must divide duties early on. Who will be the CEO who talks with investors and ensures that the firm never runs out of money, and who will be in charge of the product, engineering, etc.?
“Every blaze is my concern”
Early on, Motsoaledi assumed the job of chief technology officer and developed the initial version of the product. After the business secured financial support, it recruited its first developer (who is currently the director of engineering), allowing Motsoaledi to focus on the larger picture.
- What must be constructed and how?
- Does it make sense given the actions of the competition?
- What technology stack are they utilizing, and should we create or outsource it?
- What competitive edge do we possess?
- How do we develop the product’s depth?
- Motsoaledi explains that the chief technology officer’s responsibility has grown to include “overseeing the technology rather than needing to code it.” “The aim and job of a CTO is to ensure that the appropriate things are built at the right time, in the right way, taking into account size, future needs, and growth ambitions.”
A fundamental aspect of this is developing and managing your IT team; “ensuring that you regularly remind everyone of the vision and direction so that they don’t walk down rabbit holes that don’t assist.”
This also implies that, as CTO, “it is more necessary to convey what has to be done than to be able to execute it yourself,” according to Motsoaledi. A solid technological foundation is crucial, but when the firm expands, “you don’t have as much time to get bogged down in the details as your staff does… It is the responsibility of [a CTO] to always explain the context, why you’re doing what you’re doing, and why it matters; very similar to the early-stage function of a CEO.”
Motsoaledi’s position is further defined by the fact that she is a female business entrepreneur: “Being a female tech founder has taught me how important it is to ensure the diversity of my team and spend as much as I can in it. I play a major role in determining the composition of my team and in constantly shifting the needle in this respect. She always hires women when recruiting a junior, for example, and claims that this has increased the variety of opinions at Voyc.