CTO, VP of Engineering or Technical Lead to grow your tech business?

Think & Grow co-founder Ant Sochan is revealing your options when it comes to hiring key product hires and how they compare with each other in specific growth phases.
Anthony Sochan
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July 28, 2022

Searching for an engineering leader to grow your business and your product is never straightforward because every business (and growth phase they enter) is different. 

Making the presumption that you ‘just need a CTO’, when actually it’s probably too early for a CTO role, means a higher salary and role misalignment at a time when preserving cash flow and focusing on early to mid stage growth is vital for future investment and runway. 

To bring you closer to understanding the style of engineering leader you need right now (therefore bringing you closer to hiring the right person for the right role), we’re revealing your options and how they compare with each other. 

How to avoid being misled by titles and job descriptions  

Firstly, let’s outline how we define the CTO, VP of Engineering and Technical Lead positions at Think & Grow: 

CTO: Executive role 

VP of Engineering: People leadership role 

Technical Lead: Technical leadership role 

Functionally, all three can be similar within a tech startup; hands-on, team management, sitting within the executive team, running end-to-end engineering sprints. 

So, the next step to understanding the role you need is having clarity on responsibilities. Here’s how we tend to differentiate them at Think & Grow: 

Technical Lead: 

  • Contribute code regularly 
  • Technically guide the engineering team 
  • Help define best engineering practices 

VP of Engineering: 

  • Improve cadence / speed of delivery 
  • Improve engineering quality 
  • Define and improve engineering culture 

CTO: 

  • Develop technology strategy aligned with the business strategy 
  • Lead and manage the technology group note: engineering may be a sub group within technology 
  • Enable and execute on the business strategy and product roadmap through technology

How to hire the right role at the right time 

When you hire which style of engineering lead is crucial to your growth targets and the size of the team. Here are a few recommendations on when we’d advise hiring which role: 

Technical Lead: When the engineering team is no more than 10 engineers. The team doesn’t require too much management or organisation, which means the engineering leader’s role is more focused on architectural decisions and contributing code themselves. 

VP of Engineering: When the engineering team cannot be managed or led by a single individual (this tends to be with 10+ engineers). Delivery has become more complex and a number of squads are necessary as opposed to one single entity. This role will play a big part in orchestrating the squads to work together effectively. 

CTO: When engineering is a significant part of the business. The business itself has grown more complex too, but with engineering being a key driver of growth and commercial decisions are being made that disadvantage the engineering org. This means the engineering team needs someone to represent it at a crucial level. 

What do you want that person to help your organisation achieve?

While the above definitions are still generalizations, we believe that engineering and organisational growth go hand in hand which weaves into our Executive Search service for our clients. 

Some executive roles are only needed during a specific growth phase or to work towards a significant funding round (12-18 months), others are needed as a more permanent fixture as part of the team. 

This is where we come in: To help founders and CEOs acknowledge the stage of growth they’re at right now, so they understand the style of lead role they need and the type of human they need to fill it.

Rest assured, by having access to our global network and expert team, you’ll join the likes of Canva, Brighte and Airtasker in securing your engineering leader. 

Drop anthony@thinkandgrowinc.com an email to find out more about how we can help you hire your next executive roles. 

Anthony Sochan

Co-Founder
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Anthony

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