April 4, 2021


Leadership memos

I came across this nice collection of leadership and learning links.

The Notable memos in tech list has a a bunch of really good reads around high level corporate strategy.

PM vs Eng Manager

The one that really captured my attention is the Letter to a new Product Manager from 2016 by Brian Armstrong of Coinbase.

The summary bullets and pop quiz are handy:

Comparing an engineering manager to a product manager

Pop quiz

Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

Some really good nuggets in here. For example:

External Facing Technologist โ€“ We see this model often in companies where technology is used to provide products and services to customers and partners; the CTO is the intermediary between clients and internal development and the main influencer in the development of the product portfolio. The CTO is in constant contact with key customers and is prominently involved in market research. Some of the larger software companies have successfully used this model with multiple CTOs who are seasoned technology experts and whose main task it is to be the bridge to customers. A number of CTOs of software companies in the middleware space have also described the customer contact as their main activity. The Different CTO Roles, Werner Vogels, 2007

And this article comparing VP Engineering to CTO talks about the relative strengths required for each. It does take a decidedly tech-startup angle, for which reason I like the preceding definition of a CTO better.

A VP Engineering is ideally a great manager and a great team builder. He or she will be an excellent recruiter, a great communicator, and a great issue resolver. The VP Eng’s job is the make everyone in the engineering organization successful and he or she needs to fix the issues sthat are getting in the way of succcess.

A CTO is ideally the strongest technologist in the organization. He or she will be an architect, and thinker, a researcher, a tester, and a tickerer. The CTO is often the technical co-founder if there is one…

Elain Chen’s 2014 LinkedIn article is more helpful, IMO.

First, the CTO:

The CTO is the #1 technical guru of the company. He or she has deep insights in the protectable technologies and core competencies of the company. He or she stays abreast of cutting edge research and development in his or her area of expertise, and in adjacent areas of interest that might have an impact on the company’s technical direction.

VP Engineering:

“…Personnel management…Program management and engineering execution…Technical leadership…Strategy development…[with CTO]”

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