4 things I learned on the way to CTO

1. You know more than you think you do.

“I don’t know how to do that’

How often have you had that thought?  For me, it was usually just before I had to do it. It pushed me to learn. Each new task asked something more of me. Mobile telecoms, banking, insurance, e-commerce, test management, people management, environment management, budget planning, test automation, and performance testing weren’t areas I was familiar with until I had to immerse myself in them. What I realized is that I can learn anything and there has been nothing that I’ve been incapable of doing. It’s these experiences of pushing yourself that builds our abilities.

2. Tech skills (tools, languages etc.) are not as important as communication and soft skills.

Tools don’t deliver projects, people do! People plan, communicate and problem solve. Tools are only as useful as the processes they automate. Yes, we can gain speed, test early and get through larger amounts of work using tools.  But, if the planning and process design is wrong, you will be automating unnecessary tasks.

3. Having the skill set isn’t enough to succeed, you need to have the focus and drive to achieve goals. 

Attitude and Drive are 80% of success, the other 20% is planning and process. Goals without planning are just wishes. Organizations tend to default into a pattern of repeating the same behaviors even though they aren’t working. This is their culture.  “This is how we have always done it”. Is this ideal?  No, but individuals need to be empowered to earn from past mistakes and apply the learning. Change has cost. However, not changing can have a bigger cost. Surround yourself with people who challenge the status quo.

4. Have faith in peoples own desire to do a great job

In general, people are smart and have already achieved a lot in life before I meet them. So, to me, leadership is about showing the way and then stepping back to let people learn their own lessons and take responsibility. I didn’t always manage this way.  I used to live in people’s ear and micromanage…that didn’t help anyone. It can be a challenge, but over the years I have learned to get out of the way and watch people grow.

– Written by Tony Sherry, CTO