Adelina Chalmers a.k.a The Geek Whisperer
2 min readMay 29, 2023


๐—œ๐—ณ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚ ๐˜„๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐—ผ๐—ณ๐—ณ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—ฏ๐˜† Marc van Neerven 's ๐—ฝ๐—ผ๐˜€๐˜ ๐—ฆ๐˜๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐˜๐˜‚๐—ฝ ๐—–๐—ง๐—ข๐˜€: ๐—ฌ๐—ผ๐˜‚ ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐—ป๐—ผ๐˜ ๐—ฎ #๐—–๐—ง๐—ข, ๐˜๐—ต๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐—ฝ๐—ผ๐˜€๐˜ ๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚!

Marc's post describing how a startup CTO is not a real CTO went viral and resonated with many people, but he also received many negative messages from startup CTOs who felt attacked by Marc's honest and direct post.

๐—œ ๐˜„๐—ฎ๐—ป๐˜ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐˜€๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—ธ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ผ๐˜€๐—ฒ ๐—–๐—ง๐—ข๐˜€:

When we feel attacked by something there's usually anger, under the anger there's usually fear - my suggestion to you is this:

Ask and observe within yourself - "๐˜ž๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ข๐˜ฎ ๐˜ ๐˜ข๐˜ง๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ช๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง?"

You likely feel scared and insecure as a first time CTO.

I've worked with many CTOs who lead 1000s of people and heard directly from them just how insecure they felt in their first role as CTO.

You're not alone!

The worst part is that you most likely feel alone with this burden and feel like you have to figure it out on your own.

If you have a #CEO who doesn't get you, and who makes you feel that you have to be perfect all the time, then it's even worse.

I can see why you feel like this.

Look at your relationship with your CEO - so you trust them to tell them you don't know something?
Do you feel able to ask for help or are you worried they'll think you're rubbish and there'll be repercussions on your career?

In my experience many first time CTOs go through this in 3 key ways:

โœ“ you don't even realise or acknowledge to yourself that you're insecure, you just know that it's uncomfortable doing the job and there's all these other people (the rest of the C Suite) who are demanding of you or

โœ“ you know that you're insecure and you have an awful CEO - as above

โœ“ you know that you're insecure but you don't want help because you don't like being taught by someone else, you like figuring things out on your own. You imagine that everyone would be horrified if you asked for help.

You would often have support if you asked, but you self-sabotage by hiding your lack of expertise. By trying to figure your challenges on your own, you're wasting precious runway time that the startup doesn't have and usually create a situation where the board has to hire a fractional fCTO to fix the problems created.

Instead of directing your fear towards Marc (or any other fCTO) in the form of anger, something that's much more helpful to you is to self analyse and seek to understand your insecurities around this.

This way you can observe what might make you feel like this and address it.

It could be that you need to learn a new skill like leading people or negotiating ambiguous situations.

Whatever that gap is in your expertise, the only way to fix it is by analysing yourself and seeing what is causing it.

๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€๐—ฒ ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ด๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฟ ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐˜๐—ผ ๐˜‚๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐˜„๐—ต๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚ ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ!

How would you react if you felt attacked?




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