Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Faces of the CTO

Monday, February 16, 2004

Sex and the CTO!

In this enlightened age we all know that there is no correlation between a person's sex and their mental ability or organizational effectiveness. So, why is it that the ratio of male to female CTOs is 192:8. Or put another way - only 4% of CTOs appear to be women.

Where would I get such a statistic? I have conducted a very unscientific study. Basically, I executed a Google Image search of the term "Chief Technology Officer". Then I looked at the mug shots of the first 200 faces that came up. 192 of these were men, 8 were women.

Of course such an unscientific study is subject to many types of errors. But, the bias of the sexes remains clear even if the number of women is double what one search returned. 184:16 or 8% is still embarrassingly lop-sided.

Check the results yourself: CTO Mug Shots

[Note: Images that did not contain corporate executives in their official pose were not included in the count. These images included marketing graphics, newspaper articles, and dogs.]

Myhrvold on the CTO

Nathan Myhrvold
[This comment is a little dated ... but still relevant in many organizations.]

"When asked what a CTO is, Nathan Myhrvold, the former CTO of Microsoft and head of its massive research organization, replied, 'Hell if I know. You know, when Bill [Gates] and I were discussing my taking this job, at one point he said, Okay, what are the great examples of successful CTO's. After about five minutes we decided that, well, there must be some, but we didn't have on the tip of our tongues exactly who was a great CTO, because many of the people who actually were great CTO's didn't have that title, and at least some of the people who have that title arguably aren't great at it. My job at Microsoft is to worry about technology in the future. If you want to have a great future you have to start thinking about it in the present, because when the future's here you won't have the time.'"

[Extracted from:]

Advocate CTO

Advocate CTO: “You get a B- to C+ grade as a CTO if you solve problems as they come along. If you want an A or a B, you have to teach your people how to prevent those problems in the first place.” -- Craig Humphreys, CTO, H-E-B

Genius CTO

Genius CTO: “The greatest CTOs that I know are the ones that take architecture seriously. Architecture guides the constraints and shows what’s important and what isn’t. It bridges the creativity of the engineer to something that can achieve a high impact for the company.” -- Greg Papadopoulos, CTO, Sun Microsystems

Director CTO

Director CTO: “The CTO nurtures and cultivates new ideas and innovation in both the technologies and the processes by which we build and design large complex aerospace systems. The CTO must focus the enterprise or company so it can be responsive to new technology and capitalize on it.” -- David Whelan, CTO, Boeing Space and Communications

Administrator CTO

Administrator CTO: “Every basic business process must work. That takes 80 percent of our time – replacing awful, ugly work process. Each one of the agencies must operate in an efficient way.” -- Suzanne Peck, CTO, District of Columbia

Executive CTO

Executive CTO: “The CTO’s key tasks are not those of lab director writ large but, rather, of a technical businessperson deeply involved in shaping and implementing overall corporate strategy.” -- W.W. Lewis, Sloan Management Review

Right Sizing the CTO

Like all other positions, the skill set needed for the CTO varies based on the type of business, industry, and maturity of the company. The person who was perfect for leading the company during its early phases may be completely wrong for the same position when the company is trying to organize innovation across multiple locations, in different lines of business, and with a larger employee base. The types of CTOs we have described can be found in companies at all stages of their lifecycle. But, there are noticeable relationships between the type of CTO selected and the phase that a business has reached in its evolution. The graphic illustrates the best application of specific types of CTOs to specific phases of the business lifecycle.

[Extracted from: "Maximizing the CTO’s Contribution to Innovation and Growth".]

CTO Patterns

The CTO position is occupied by people with diverse backgrounds, as is common to other executive positions like the CEO, COO, and CIO. Since the CTO position is often confused or interchangeable with the CIO position, and since both are relatively new to the executive ranks, it should be no surprise that the skill and background of the CTO is at least as diverse as that found in the CIO position. In studying the backgrounds, responsibilities, and missions of a number of CTOs we identified several distinct patterns of CTO. These patterns are driven by unique stages in business evolution and by the needs of specific industries. Separating these categories and associating them with a business phase or industry, sheds considerable light on references to the CTO in the trade press and corporate statements.

We have identified five dominant patterns of CTO. These are labeled the Genius, Administrator, Director, Executive, and Advocate. A brief intro to these categories can be seen in the figure below.

[Extracted from: "5 Patterns of the Chief Technology Officer"]