What Do I Mean by "Aspiring CTO"?

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My LinkedIn tag line makes reference to me as an “aspiring CTO”. I recently got asked what this means to me. With a little encouragement from the person who asked me, I’ve decided to formalise it in a blog post; of course I’ve edited it from the original response, but it’s my content so I’m allowed to do that.

To me, being an aspiring CTO is a statement of an end-goal; but it once I reach that position it isn’t the end of the journey, it is just the beginning.

For around 25 years I’ve been in a variety of technical roles; some of these have involved running my own business, and most have involved interacting directly with customers and end-users. This has given me a good understanding of both the technical challenges and the business challenges faced by businesses. I also have team leadership experience, both through providing mentoring and coaching to team leaders, and through providing advice and views to CTOs; although my direct team leadership has been limited, I have always sought to lead from behind as a team member and I have grasped the opportunity to provide leadership when the opportunity arises.

Over the last 5 years I’ve found my interest in leadership overtake my interest in coding. This led me on a path of self-assessment and discovery that has solidified in my mind my desire to move into a purely leadership role and ultimately aim for a CTO role. I mentioned at the start of this that becoming a CTO is just the beginning of a journey; that is because the position of CTO is so varied depending on company size and structure. My background in SaaS organisations means that I am likely to begin my CTO journey in a smaller start-up or scale-up organisation; assuming this the CTO role that I first achieve, over time I would see the journey as leading me into a similarly titled role at larger organisations. This is not to say that this is the only path way that I would consider, nor is it to say that I MUST have a CTO role at some point in my career.

Getting back to what I think “aspiring CTO” means; it means that I am wanting to move from a technical career into a leadership career; it means I want to use my skills in leadership, my passion for people and seeing others succeed, and my vast technical experience to help a business and the employees of the business succeed. It’s also important to note that it does not mean my next step requires a role with the “CTO” title, in fact it would be fair to say that I’m unlikely to accept a CTO role at this time unless it is the exact role I feel I could thrive in with my current skill set.

As I journey toward becoming a CTO and then proceed beyond my first CTO role to become CTO of larger organisations I feel my next step is likely to be into a leadership position; perhaps as a Scrum master, maybe as a team leader or delivery lead, maybe In another role. It will be an opportunity that allows me to help, coach and mentor others to succeed; a role that I can measure my success by the success of others; a role that allows me to have a positive impact on both the business and the people without having to write code all day.