How to prevent the board kicking you out at Series B, C as a CTO


I wrote a post about why many startups dethrone their CTOs when they get to series B, C

I said I’d share how to prevent this from happening to you, if you are a CTO in a growing startup right now and you want to do something about it.

Step 1 — Gain self awareness of what it is that you actually want:
What type of CTO do you want to be, do you even want to be a CTO in a bigger company, or perhaps a Chief Architect in a company of 200 people is the perfect fit for you and you’re content with that?

You can not get the outcome you want without knowing first what you want.

✓ Look at where you like to spend your time now — do you like to lead people, are you focused on processes and efficiency, or do you prefer to look at the architecture or perhaps build prototypes, do you still “get in the zone” (as Marc van Neerven calls it) and code?

✓ how does your day to day job as CTO now compare to the CTO performance measurement I recommended in a previous post (and Medium article?)

✓ what gaps are there between your current CTO role and the general strategic CTO role I describe?

✓ do you see yourself as a commercial CTO — being customer facing, presenting at conferences and translating business into tech strategy?

If you don’t know how to do this alone — we have a CTO role review we can do for you and help you identify how strategic you are at the moment as a CTO and how would you have to be to be considered a strategic CTO at series B, C etc.

Step 2 — Do you want to do it? Decide if it’s something you want to become or should you be preparing for a career shift?

Step 3 — Take action to fill the gaps:

Let’s say that you did your own analysis (or you asked us to do an analysis for you) and realised that you definitely want to keep being a CTO as the company grows and you definitely want to become a commercial CTO.

You now have a list of gaps that you have to fill and actions you need to take in order to get there.

Here are a few of the usual things that come up when we help people with this:

✓ you have to get close to the CFO — understand fiance, understand how they think and how they prioritise stuff — the CFO can be your biggest ally in a scale-up

✓ become obsessed with the market segment you are in — where is the trend pointing to, what are the customer needs and priorities, what is the latest tech that you might be able to integrate in your tech?

✓ always think about how is tech serving the business goals, not just creating tech because the board or CEO asked you to

✓ learn how to speak the same language as the rest of the board — you don’t realise it but right now I’m willing to bet that 85% of the time the board doesn’t understand your presentations and they don’t ask you questions to show that they don’t understand.

Have you ever thought about how your CTO role will change in 3–5 years?

Have you ever considered doing a review of how strategic you are?



Adelina Chalmers a.k.a The Geek Whisperer

Helps Engineers who are Leaders (CEO/ CTO/ VP) get buy-in from their peers/teams/investors by transforming Communication techniques into Algorithms