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Being a CTO at Any Level: A Discussion with Kathy Keating, Co-Founder of CTO Levels

In this episode of the engineering leadership series, Kathy Keating, co-founder of CTO Levels and CTO Advisor, shares her insights on the role of a CTO and the challenges they face. She begins by discussing her own journey as a technologist and her experience in technology leadership roles, including founding companies and having a recent exit.

According to Kathy, the primary responsibility of a CTO is to deliver the technology that aligns with the company's business needs. However, she highlights a concerning statistic that 50% of CTOs have a tenure of less than two years, often due to a lack of understanding and mismatched expectations. She emphasizes the importance of building trust quickly in order to succeed in this role.

One of the main challenges CTOs face is transitioning from being a technologist to a leader. Kathy stresses the significance of developing effective communication habits to bridge this gap. She suggests that CTOs create a playbook of best practices to enhance their communication skills and join communities of other CTOs to learn from their experiences.

Matching the right CTO to the stage of a company is another crucial aspect discussed in the episode. Kathy explains that different stages of a company require different types of CTOs, and it is essential to find the right fit.

To navigate these challenges, Kathy advises CTOs to build a support system of advisors and coaches who can provide guidance and help them overcome obstacles. Additionally, she encourages CTOs to be aware of their own preferences and strengths, as self-awareness can greatly contribute to their success.

In conclusion, this podcast episode sheds light on the technical aspects of being a CTO and the challenges they face. Kathy Keating's insights provide valuable guidance for CTOs to build trust, develop effective communication habits, match their skills to the company's stage, and create a support system for their professional growth. By understanding these key technical aspects, CTOs can enhance their leadership skills and contribute to the success of their organizations.