Being the CTO of a Startup – The Six Month Mark

As many of you know, I am the Chief Technical Officer of Sideband Networks, a still-in-stealth startup using real-time analytics to assist in the networking space.  I was previously VP of Technology for XDN, who re-invented the content delivery space and was acquired by Fortinet.

With the six-month anniversary of my joining with my fellow ex-exodus friend, Zane Taylor coming up around the corner, I thought I would share some of what I have learned so far.

  • The Chief part of your title means you must lead by example:  You are the technical center of the company.  The decisions you make, the work that you do, must push the company in the direction of success.
  • Pivoting is natural, do it intelligently: In the early stages of company building, there will be times when you must make hard decisions.  You might need to change hardware vendors, or stick with one may not be optimal in the long term.  There may be decisions about software strategy where time and money are involved.  The best way to pivot, is to do it carefully and if at all possible, in a minor way.  Micro-pivots are easy to deal with and are strategic to tightening up the focus of the company.
  • When you are doing things that have not been achieved before, celebrate the small victories:  The company looks to the CTO to validate the direction and progress of the product(s).  Know what your customers are looking for and when milestones are hit, point them out.
  • Above all, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty:  Sometimes you have to cable up some new equipment, deliver boxes to customers or clean off a desk for a new employee.  Embrace these tasks and do what you want your other employees to do.

Being a CTO is not just about Evangelizing products and solutions.  It’s about being a thought leader and focusing on the future, how to get there and the future includes NOW.

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