How to Become a CTO: 5 Steps to Get to Tech Leadership Position

McKinsey’s global survey has revealed that for 73 percent of respondents from high-performing companies, their most senior tech leaders are heavily involved in shaping the company’s overall strategy and agenda. More and more organizations worldwide are embracing technology. A Chief Technology Officer (CTO), thus, plays an important role. CTOs take complete control of the technological aspects of the business. The CTO’s shoes are tough to fill but not unattainable. However, it’s a senior-level position that requires years of experience. So, let’s not keep you wondering what it takes to become one. Find out how to become a CTO below!

First, What is a CTO?

The CTO acts as the lead technologist within the organization, managing its technological aspects. In addition to possessing and remaining up-to-date with the latest trends in technology, they also hold business knowledge. Why? To align this knowledge with decisions connected to technology, further allowing the organization to meet its objectives. They also examine the company’s diverse requirements and invest to accomplish targets. 

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What Does a CTO Do?

They say that with great power comes great responsibility. Being a C-suite level role, the CTO takes care of numerous tasks. They either look after the creation of innovative products or business operation processes within the company. Given below are some of the most important tasks undertaken by them.

  1. Development: To enhance and expand the business, they look after the development and distribution of technology amongst various types of clients
  2. Supervision: Supervise the research and development of technology along with assets related to IT
  3. Compliance: Keep an account of all the latest information regarding the standards of technology and even compliance regulations
  4. Approval: Provide approval to the new designs for the IT infrastructure and communication systems
  5. Hiring: Be a part of the recruitment, acquisition, retention, and various sales efforts 
  6. Situational Analysis: Make use of new data protection and QA (quality assurance) processes and recognize opportunities and risks
  7. Stay on Trend: Various technology and social trends potentially affect the organization’s numerous targets. A CTO keeps track of such trends
  8. Deliver Solutions: Based on current and emerging technologies, they come up with and provide superior solutions to organizations’
  9. Act as Proxy: If the organization is small and does not have a chief information officer, then CTOs are required to handle its IT operations
  10. Strategize for Advancement: Get in touch with the management, employees, partners, and investors of the organization to convey various strategies related to technology and the use of new technologies within the organization

What are the Most Important Skills Needed for a CTO?

1. Excellent Leadership and Communication Skillshow-to-become-a-product-manager

To be a good leader, you should be able to guide your team and be the mentor that they need. In addition, you should be a good motivator because doing so will bring out the best in your team. These leadership skills will allow you and your team to successfully meet the company’s goals. Part of being a good leader also means being excellent at communicating your ideas and technical information, allowing you to arrive at the right solutions. 

Also Read: How to be a Future-Proof Leader

2. Strategic Thinking and Decision-Making Skills

Being able to think strategically will provide you with a broader view of the objectives of a particular project or organization. In addition to strategizing, you should be able to make decisions. This could revolve around making decisions about your team, resources, or even timelines that need to be met and tasks that need to be completed. The strategies that you develop and the decisions that you make will, in turn, have an impact on the company. 

3. Have a Business Sense

Without solid business sense, you will find it challenging to strategize and make the necessary decisions. On the other hand, a strong business sense means you have an in-depth understanding of the organization’s operations and the hurdles it faces. You can then ably provide solutions to business problems.

4. Time Management

Considering this role’s importance, you will have a considerable amount of work regularly. To avoid getting overwhelmed, you should know how to manage your time well. Being good at time management requires knowing how to set up tasks, follow timelines and meet your deadlines. 

5. Technological Knowledge

Be well-versed with past, present, and emerging technologies. Frameworks and programming languages are some technical knowledge you must possess and constantly update yourself with.

How to Become a CTO?

Now that we’ve established all the essential details about this role, let us understand how to become a CTO. Given below are five ways to become one:

1. Get the Required Education

A Bachelor’s degree in information technology or computer science is the most basic educational requirement to become a CTO. But to excel as a CTO, you should consider applying for a Master’s or an MBA program in IT management. In fact, large companies tend to prefer candidates with an MBA or a Master’s degree. In addition, you can explore online leadership courses to get you started on the path. Emeritus has partnered with some of the top-rated universities in the world to offer courses designed to help leaders move into a CTO role, including:

Finally, as a CTO, you must have a vast knowledge of everything related to the technological field, such as finance management, leadership, and team building. So don’t stop at degrees but commit to lifelong learning. 

2. Gain the Necessary Experience

A CTO is a C-suite role, prompting the need for a significant amount of practical knowledge and, ideally, more than 15 years of experience in the IT field. In addition to this and your educational qualifications, having certifications can be highly beneficial while applying for this job. 

3. Develop Leadership, People, and Team Management Skillswhat is business strategy

Having technological knowledge is not the only requirement. People with a solid set of soft skills like leadership are what employers seek in potential hires. As a CTO, you will supervise a team of designers, project managers, and developers. Moreover, you will spend significant time collaborating with and assigning work to them. You will also constantly offer guidance and motivation to your team. So developing soft skills in leadership, people, and team management is a must. These will enable you to become a good leader and enhance your position as a CTO.

4. Develop and Master Technical Skills

Stay updated about the changing technologies. To ensure that you have the right technical skills, you should enroll in courses that teach and hone these skills. You will also remain up-to-date with the latest technologies through these courses and programs.

5. Expand your Influence and Meet with Great Leaders

Networking is a must regardless of your profession. When you network, you meet and engage with people from all walks of life. You also meet leaders who can teach you a lot and provide you with the necessary guidance while building new technologies. Networking will also allow you to make your name known within and even outside your industry. 

Pro tip: Make sure you begin networking early in your CTO journey.

So, if you want to upskill to become a CTO, we can help you get started! Enroll in our Online Leadership Programs to develop the right skills and acquire the necessary knowledge to become one in the future.

By Annabel George

Write to us at content@emeritus.org

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