Bigi Lui
2020-07-22 ⋅ 3 min read

Joining a company as a CTO

One of the things I've thought about briefly over the past few years is what joining a company as a CTO (or a VPE) is like. My experience in tech has mostly been either working my way up within a company, or founding a startup as a technical cofounder and being a CTO that way.

Something I've always found challenging is joining a company as a senior tech leader. Over my last two moves, I've come to a realization that for myself, it's difficult to act in the capacity of a tech leader without being knowledgeable in the business domain of the company. In other words, domain knowledge is a critical piece in being a tech leader, and that it simply takes time to ramp up on domain knowledge when you move. It's possible for the ramp up to be a lot shorter when moving within the same industry (e.g. from one game company to another); but I think it's fair to say for many software engineers, one might often find themselves moving from a tech startup/unicorn to another, in a completely different industry (e.g. from travel tech to payment tech to enterprise SaaS, etc.). My experience is that you may join a company at a level of Senior, Staff or Principal Engineer, but you often feel like a newbie in the first 6 months before you're ramped up.

Because of this, it has been hard for me to imagine how it feels and what it involves to be joining a company externally as a CTO or VPE. I came across this article on LinkedIn today, and I found that the mind map the author created here really captures what a new CTO role encompasses; and is a great guideline for when I eventually join a company as a CTO.

VPE and CTO - The First 90 Days
I put this mind map together a few years ago after a discussion about what a new VP of Engineering or CTO should think about in their first 90 days in a new role.