CTOs & tech executives are critical to any business, and as our digital world evolves, their skills and the value of their team increases. The team is needed to manage cybersecurity, maintain the website, and build new product features (among dozens of other tasks), all while leaders are trying to build and run a successful team, manage expectations, maintain tight budgets and so much more.
This leaves tech executives little time for innovation and expansion, as technology experts at Thrive explain: “For many, spending time on valuable business drivers—the ones that give your business a competitive advantage—takes the backseat to managing and maintaining an IT environment that’s increasingly complex.”
If you’re experiencing any of these challenges as a technology executive in your company, keep the following tips in mind. You can overcome these challenges and get back to enjoying the part of the work that you love most.
Building The Right Team
Overcome It: Dig deeper
Whether you’re suffering from the supposed talent shortage or not, technology is changing—quickly. Finding specialized people who’ve kept up with the skills needed to evolve your technology and business, think AI, IoT and blockchain, is quickly becoming a challenge for tech leadership.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find this talent; you just have to dig a little further than the standard interview questions and resume bullets. “Finding that team, for me, comes down to asking one extra question at the end of each resume bullet: ‘Why were you the only one that could do this?’ It's not enough that you can write code, solder boards, analyze loads, and write procedures, because lots of people can do that,” suggests Erin Beck, former SpaceX Dragon Mission Director, and founder and CEO of Wana Family Network.
As you’re interviewing and reviewing resumes, keep Beck’s questions in mind: “What identifies the best of the best is why it mattered: Did you self-initiate process improvements that no one else saw? Exactly how much more efficient is that component because you designed it?” The better talent you have on your team, the more time you can spend on innovating at a high-level.
Being a Woman
Overcome it: Deliver: “Results are gender agnostic.”
The technology industry is still dominated by men, with only 26 percent of women in computer science jobs and 31 percent of ISEF finalists in Computing categories being female, according to NCWIT.org. For female tech executives, this disparity is nearly tangible. Cindy Mallory, Emergent Tech Strategist and VR/AR Association Co-Chair, shares a recent experience she had:
“When I spoke on design-thinking for blockchain in Times Square, I was the only woman presenter. When I spoke on VR monetization models in Russia, I was one of a small handful of women devs lecturing. When I consider my mentors, colleagues, and peers, they are mostly male.”
How do you overcome this challenge? Mallory does what many successful women before her have: “To overcome my challenges, I work twice as smart. I set baseline metrics and train my teams to think of every project as an experiment. I put key performance indicators on a pedestal. I then deliver. It's easy to dismiss a blonde not-yet-30 at a glance, but results are gender agnostic.”
When you can focus on your work, and not what people think of your gender, you’re empowered to do better and be more effective.
Engaging Employees With Career Advancement
Overcome it: Rethink employee engagement.
It’s easy, as a tech executive, to be so focused on product and company goals that you forget about keeping employees engaged, in their job and their overall career. This has been a significant challenge for Tim Kulp, Director of Emerging Technology for Mind Over Machines:
“One of the core challenges I have faced is helping team members build their career goals and cross the chasm of ‘How do I get from where I am to where I want to be?’ I’ve seen many team members who burn out or leave an organization because this question cannot be answered.”
While finding the right talent is a challenge, Kulp points out that keeping them engaged and growing, within their position and the company, is just as hard—if not more so. Luckily, there are a number of ways to overcome this challenge.
Kulp suggests starting a mentoring program that includes a visible career ladder, encouraging growth within the company and outside of it: “Make it clear that sometimes growing your career means growing out of your company and that is okay.”
To make your mentoring program effective, it’s important to incorporate direct learning opportunities: “When highly-skilled technical workers are denied the opportunity to grow their skills, they begin to look elsewhere for employment,” suggests the 2018 Developer Learning Survey.
Keep the key findings of the Developer Learning Survey in mind when creating a mentoring and learning program:
- Reading may be preferred learning method, preferred by 36 percent of senior developers and 42 percent of junior developers.
- A minimal learning investment of $800 to $1,800 per engineer per year delivers significant returns–as much as 20 to 30 percent in employee morale and productivity gains.
- Set aside work time for personal learning. A whopping 91 percent of respondents said they use Stack Overflow as a go-to resource to keep their skills up to date and 71 percent use GitHub.
Managing a Worldwide Team
Overcome it: Get to know their culture.
Culture varies from company to company, and even internally, from team to team. This variance in culture can be seen most actively with dispersed teams, especially those that operate around the globe. For many companies, operating with a remote team is the only way to find the best talent and expand while maintaining a lean budget.
Ian McClarty, President and CEO of PhoenixNAP Global IT Solutions, has experienced this first-hand: “Our second location was very academic and tended to aim for perfect solutions. Our third location was used to a consulting method of working, and would focus on logging hours worked overtime to market.”
Instead of ignoring the issue, which can lead to team members feeling left out, and likely a higher—and costly—turnover rate, address it head on by learning about these differences: “Identifying these different ways of working, and talking with the teams to set clear expectations of goals, using each culture’s strength when possible, is key,” says McClarty.
When your team is successful, so are you. Give them the tools they need to succeed, depending on their cultural needs.
Battling the “Bandwagon” Habit
Overcome it: Focus on reliability.
“They have it, we need it too. Can you build that?” If you’ve been asked this question, you understand the tech leadership challenge of wanting to keep up, but needing to maintain infrastructure and security. All while making sure the current product is running bug-free.
Still, your job is to be the “transformer,” as Sophie Miles, Co-Founder of CalculatorBuddy.com, says. She explains:
“The tech leader is in charge of fulfilling the promise of transformation, must be a facilitator, adopting agile implementation models that include emerging technologies such as the cloud, containers, and microservices, managing an explosion of data and reaching ever higher service levels. Above all, it must be a transformer, laying the foundations of the vast ecosystem of virtual data, ERP systems, and cybersecurity.”
As the company evolves and expands on the technology side, it’s your job to build and maintain that a reliable infrastructure. Mitigate these requests, and keep the company’s technology secure and running seamlessly, with Miles’ technical tips:
- Make a diagnosis of the technological needs, and compare them with the business objectives
- Develop a proactive hybrid cloud strategy by creating a set of decision frameworks in the cloud and processes to evaluate cloud computing opportunities based on the business and workload needs of the company.
- Plan for Edge Computing, and not the centralized data center, so that it can become a growing and significant part of your digital IT infrastructure portfolios.
- Establish the skills, tools, and processes for a dynamic and hybrid environment by partnering with the Human Resources area to conduct an inventory of skills and competencies, and identify training opportunities and areas of potential vulnerability.
Overcome Your Tech Leadership Challenges
Don’t let common challenges hold you back from developing a strong team or building an innovative product. Use these ideas and personal stories to stop treading water and get back to doing what made you love the job in the first place.