What Makes a Successful CTO?

Amar Singh and Raj Samani


CLICK HERE to watch the full interview

Before we tackle this title it would be prudent to first look at what a CTO, Chief Technology Officer, does. Monster.co.uk, one of the largest employment websites in the world, describes a CTO “Oversees all technical aspects and technological resources of an organisation for the purpose of organisational growth. Establishes a technological vision for an organisation and leads the company’s technological development.” From overseeing IT budgets to researching how to improve the technical assets of a company and managing digital assets to streamline and implementing policies, a Chief Technology Officer wears many hats and has their proverbial finger in many professional pies.

Straight from the experts

To answer the question ‘what makes a successful CTO’, we’ve taken a look at a video interview between two tech titans. Our latest edition of ‘Insights with Cyber Leader’ saw a real meeting of minds when Amar Singh, a highly respected security analyst from Cyber Management Alliance, interviewed Raj Samani, CTO of Intel for EMEA.

Amar counts the title of mentor and trusted advisor to FTSE 100 firms amongst his long list of professional accolades and has been invited to speak by the likes of The Financial Times, The Economist’s Intelligence Unit and The BBC World Business Report.

As a VP and CTO for EMEA for Intel Security, Raj has also appeared in the media as an industry expert for ITV and More4 and is a published author.

Hard work pays off

During the 33 minute video, Raj reveals “being a CTO gives you a platform and what you do with that platform is really up to you”. He attributes success to hard work, hunger for information and knowledge and a genuine passion for the role and everything it entails. Referring to his own inquisitive mind, offering his own Legoland-based anecdote, Raj highlights the importance of asking questions as a CTO.

When asked by Amar what he’d be looking for from a CTO in an interview scenario Raj emphasised that it’s not all about hard skills and certifications, but a passion for what you do. He gives the example of social media when illustrating that we gravitate to those who are similar to us but highlights that whilst others may have a different opinion, at the heart of it it’s important that they share the same passion for the job.

So, a successful Chief Technology Officer will develop their team and create a people-centric culture where development is encouraged. Many believe that the successful CTO hires people that disagree with them and challenge their outlook, whilst retaining that all-important shared passion.

Give the people what they want

The rate of innovation within the technology industry is constantly accelerating and the successful CTO will have the ability to adapt, learn and evolve. Raj comments “I don’t think there’s an industry that moves at such a fast pace as the one we’re in” and the CTO’s role is to help teams understand what customers want to do but can’t currently do and how to bridge the gap between the two.

Business and technology working together

The successful Chief Technology Officer will also have an appreciation for the way business and technology intersect. They’re becoming more intertwined all the time and to be able to make informed decisions CTO’s need to focus both on business as well as maintaining their technical focus. In support PayPal’s CTO, James Barrese has been quoted as saying “Don’t build tech for tech’s sake.” Plus, the successful CTO knows it’s as important to know what’s happening in China, for example, as it is that they know about what’s going on down the corridor.

CLICK HERE to watch the full interview