How The Role of a CTO Evolves as a Startup Journey
November 30, 2022
The foundation of a successful startup is the quality of the team members, which means it's essential for a CTO to be involved in the hiring process. The CTO should understand the skills and capabilities the development team needs and how to identify them in potential hires. With the right talent, a startup can build a great MVP, attract investors, and create a product that delights end-users.
Adi Vora (Co-Founder & CPTO of Ayoconnect); Ajay Bulusu (Co-Founder of Nextbillion.ai); Richard Clark (CTO of Sharesies); and Mark Birch (AWS Startup Advocate) shared the insights about becoming a CTO during a fireside chat session in AWS Startups CTO Fellowship Program: What You Wish You Knew When You First Started Your Company. Adi explains how to build the tech and product team for the Southeast Asia market.
AWS Startups CTO Fellowship program is a 4-week program that prepares early-stage founders during their startup journey—specially designed for CTOs and technical founders of early-stage (bootstrapped, pre-seed, seed, pre-A) companies. This program aims to answer the most asked questions by founders.
The Hiring Process
Hiring doesn't end with salary negotiation and then signing a contract; it extends into onboarding, training, integrating into the team, working together to establish cultural norms, and building trust and reliance on your developers to collaborate and move the business forward.
Hiring the right people for your tech startup is just as essential as having a great product or idea. At the end of the day, it’s people that make a company successful. You wouldn’t write code for an app without knowing what you’re building, or make a sales call to a random phone number. It’s the same for recruiting. You should have a plan before you announce a job vacancies at LinkedIn or your website.
"You have to plan ahead because if you don't have a plan, your hiring will always be last minute, and you will just take up what comes or who's available," Adi said via Zoom.
So as a CTO, it would help if you focused on quarterly goals. But if you can give yourself three to four months to build a team or the right people to create, then you will find an exceptional team.
"But not everybody wants to take the risk of working in an early-stage startup. For me, in the early stages, it was all about attitude and it's all about ownership. Technical skills can always be trained, but you need an employee who has the ability to think rationally, think logically, and have an attitude. And if the attitude is there, then the person can be groomed into solving any challenge out there," he said.
When the pandemic COVID-19 started in Indonesia, Ayoconnect decided to remote work even after things opened up. Our employees are everywhere too, so the decision to be a remote-friendly company gives more flexibility than the traditional 9-5 office mode . "The talent that we've found in the last few years across the globe has already brought the level within the organization higher, so there's the ability that location does not matter towards recruitment," Adi stated.
"Now we've got people working out of Taiwan, India, Singapore, or Vietnam and out of Europe where we got the right candidate for the right job. Also automatically, because there is a little bit of work from home or work from anywhere, there's a little bit of motivation and freedom to work at that time," he added.
Especially for engineers, designers, or writers who love working at night; a couple of them are night owls, giving them the ability and feeling to work wherever they want, as long as there are responsibilities for their own task.
The Communications Gaps
One of the significant work-from-home challenges they are facing is communication. We had to be very proactive in understanding gaps daily and finding solutions or processes to solve them. "I think we've gotten better in the last couple of years, but still, there are situations where there are communication breakdowns that happen, and I think it's crucial to set up that framework of communication and documentation very strongly," Adi said.
"We do quarterly or half yearly or even yearly meetups across the organization where everybody comes together and meets. There is still a little gap where the personal touch is not there because everybody is remote working. So, we're taking steps like video's policy where at least you get to see the person during conversation, and look at their emotions and reactions and stuff," he added.
At Ayoconnect, we have a value called Make Your Mark, which is that you can do certain things within the organization where you are making your mark towards specific competencies that are expected for the next step, regardless of title, seniority, and tenure. The simple example is always speaking up in meetings. It’s better to voice your thoughts and your opinions in the moment, rather than following up afterwards with an email.
"So I think that's a great way to show people their growth. And, naturally, we have people who have joined us during the early days, very raw, but very kind of teamwork. And now a lot of them are in senior and leadership positions because you've organizations, they've grown as well, and it's shown them where they need to take the next step as well," he said.
Every quarter, we also have something called Smart Goals for all employees in our HR software, to know how their work matters and that the company moves forward together. To drive a culture that is goal focused, it’s important that not just the leadership, but every employee in the organization should be equipped enough to identify, set and effectively track the goals for their team. In this process, it is important to ensure that individual and team mission are aligned to drive the unified target of the firm.
“Because, as the organization grows, you will have your sales department, marketing, supply operations, and stuff. And it's essential to understand their pain points and try to solve them,” he added.
"Now, my role is a lot in people management, which is a key part of being a CTO. If your people are not happy, they're not going to perform or get the output for you and management," Adi said in conclusion.
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