11 Often Overlooked Traits Of Great CTOs

By September 9, 2013

What’s one overlooked trait of a strong CTO?

The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library, and email lessons.

1. Cooperation

Odds are the technology works, but people are using it wrong. Arming individuals with the technology they need to do their job means coping with change. A CTO needs to work with others on his team or help manage the change directly within his company.

Tyler Arnold, SimplySocial Inc.

2. Understanding

As it relates to digital startups, everything is irrelevant if your CTO doesn’t want to understand the customer.

Eddie Lou, Shiftgig


3. A Strong Network

One of the most important but overlooked roles of a CTO at a small startup is to help recruit and vet the engineering team as a company grows. Look for someone who has established a strong developer network and built engineering teams before.

Michael Mayernick, Spinnakr

4. Balance

Most CTOs are heavily focused on either internal or external measures and processes. The strong CTO will be well-versed in both realms.

Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance


5. Personability

A CTO is always expected to be curious and a strong developer. However, an often-overlooked trait of a strong CTO is his ability to be personable with employees. Personable CTOs are able to do much more than simply develop — they are able to foster a work environment for the development team to work happier, smarter and faster. This also helps with employee retention in the long run.

Fehzan Ali, Adscend Media LLC

6. Big-Picture Thinking

CTOs focus their time evaluating how technology can be used by their organization to create new business models and lines. They look at competitors’ attempts to use technology and decide how their organization will use technology to disrupt markets. In order to truly disrupt markets, CTOs need to have truly disruptive ideas. That’s why an overlooked trait of a CTO is being a “big thinker.”

Brett Farmiloe, Digital Marketing Agency

7. Keeping Up With the Industry

The ability to see the big picture of what you are moving toward and not getting lost in the small everyday tasks is crucial. It’s important to be fluid with technological developments and challenge yourself to be the first to adapt to new industry transformations.

Phil Laboon, Eyeflow Internet Marketing

8. Collaboration

The CTO impacts all areas of the business. Sometimes the tech team can become siloed because their heads are down fixing bugs, making continuous changes and essentially making sure the company stays in business. Even through these are daily challenges, it’s important to have a CTO who recognizes the value of cross-team collaboration and a team that will communicate their ideas back to them.

Erik Severinghaus, Simple Relevance

9. A Fun Personality

If you hire a CTO who is a lot of fun, the engineering team and the rest of the company will want to spend time with him and will be more likely to rally around the technology. This fun personality can include a great sense of humor, interest in a lot of activities, and more.

Jesse Pujji, Ampush

10. Perspective

Most CTOs are awesome at coding and engineering. That is what they bring to the table. I’ve noticed that a strong CTO is also more conservative and helps the CEO slow down and see things from a perspective more aligned with reality.

Ryan Shank, Mhelpdesk


11. Empathy

A strong CTO needs to see how technology enables people. And, despite their own technological prowess, they need to see where others may have challenges with adapting to new technology or ways of doing things.

Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

The Young Entrepreneur Council

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.