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CTO vs. VP of Engineering

CTO vs. VP of Engineering

My talk presented with @jasonh at #monkigras. Update: video is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAHItZ1cSNM

Bryan Cantrill

February 01, 2012
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  1. CTO vs. VP of Engineering:
    Whatʼs the Difference?
    (And does it matter?)
    CTO
    [email protected]
    Jason Hoffman
    @jasonh
    VP, Engineering
    [email protected]
    Bryan Cantrill
    @bcantrill

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  2. The genesis of this talk
    2

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  3. CTO vs. VP of Engineering
    • In many startups especially, the difference between a CTO
    and VP of Engineering becomes blurry
    • There is often enough overlap that one person can do both
    jobs when the company is tiny...
    • ...but as a team expands, the need for distinct roles grows
    • One is not necessarily subservient to the other — both roles
    are critical and they must work as a team
    • What are these roles?
    3

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  4. CTO?
    • The CTO is the Chief Technology Officer, and in a startup,
    will likely be the technical co-founder
    • The CTO establishes the vision and culture
    • The CTO must be as technical as required to validate the
    vision and the culture
    • Beyond this, the CTO is (or should be) largely outward
    facing — the CTO should understand the relationship
    between the technology and the larger world
    • As a company grows and expands, the CTO will be at a
    crossroads: become the VP of Engineering and hire a CTO,
    or remain the CTO and hire a VP of Engineering
    4

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  5. VP of Engineering?
    • The Vice President of Engineering is responsible for the
    development and delivery of the product
    • Critically, this includes the recruitment of the team
    • Should be the exemplar of engineering
    • Should be an engineer that the team feels comfortable
    looking to on a wide range of technical problems
    5

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  6. So who innovates?
    • Neither the CTO nor the VP of Engineering is singularly
    responsible for innovation; they most foster it together
    • They must create a culture (CTO) and a team (VP of
    Engineering) that is empowered to think big
    • Both CTO and VP of Engineering must — as a team —
    embrace ideas, explore them and expand upon them
    • The CTO must communicate them upward and outward
    • The VP of Engineering must distill them into shipping
    product or functional system
    6

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  7. Anti-patterns
    • Because the specifics of the roles can vary significantly from
    company to company, itʼs hard to prescribe one “right” way
    to divide the CTO from VP of Engineering
    • Easier to define the wrong way
    • There are particular anti-patterns for these two roles that
    seem to represent common failure modes
    • Broadly, CTOs fail when they think that they are engineers,
    not communicators; VPs of Engineering fail when they think
    they are managers of people, not creators of useful things
    7

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  8. CTO Anti-pattern: The Critic
    8

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  9. VPoE Anti-pattern: The Process Queen
    9

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  10. CTO Anti-pattern: The Control Freak
    10

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  11. VPoE Anti-pattern: The No-Op
    11

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  12. CTO Anti-pattern: The Xenophobe
    12

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  13. VPoE Anti-pattern: The Upward Manager
    13

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  14. CTO Anti-pattern: The Creator
    14

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  15. VPoE Anti-pattern: The Cat Herder
    15

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  16. CTO Anti-pattern: The Space Ranger
    16

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  17. VPoE Anti-pattern: The Naysayer
    17

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  18. Thank you!
    18
    @jasonh
    @bcantrill

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