During the pandemic, ATLCTO brought together two Atlanta, heavyweight Chief Technology Officers (CTO) in a mentoring session about scaling within the role of a CTO. Eric Muntz leads a team of 1000 engineers and employees. Eric recently celebrated his 10th anniversary at Mailchimp (CONGRATS ERIC!). Before NCR Corporation, Tim Vanderham led a team of several hundred engineers and now leads close to 4000 employees globally.
Together, their experience as CTOs is priceless and the two companies are worth billions. Mailchimp is an All-In-One integrated marketing platform for small businesses, and NCR Corporation (NYSE: NCR) is the world’s leading enterprise technology provider of software, hardware, and services for a variety of business industries.
We set the stage by having Eric question Tim about scaling as a CTO, within fast-growing companies. “One of the biggest jumps is from 500 to 1000 employees,” Tim said. Eric firmly agreed. Tim continued to pull out gold nuggets of wisdom from his treasure trove of experience, saying, “Once you have the right organization structure, you need to manage with discipline. Find the right direct leaders that mimic your leadership, style, and culture.”
The conversation flowed on to highlight valuable advice on a number of topics, kicked off with advice on ‘Team Growth’: As your team grows past 1000 employees, take an inventory of it and the employees you add. Quickly find out where the contentions, conflicts, and under/over performers are hidden. Stay as close as possible to your top reports by creating a ‘built-in’ network of trusted individuals and setting your cadence on employee reviews; monthly, quarterly, face to face. Listen to your employee reviews to find best practices with managing your team. Spot checking is not the way to manage, you will lose trust so don’t check on your team too often.
As we went deeper into discussion, Tim and Eric detailed ‘Tech Best Practices’: Live, breathe, and stay current on the technology you are deploying. Stay close to where you grew up in technology and what makes you thrive. Tim started as a performance engineer/debugging code, load testing, “So if coding is where you thrive, spend 1-3 hours a week coding. It’s ok to stay up some weekend nights with the engineering team to build rapport, respect, and to keep fingers on the pulse or the organization.”
Equally important, our dive into Tim and Eric’s journeys explored ‘Team Morale’ with the following insights. Manage your burnout because it can cause conflict and negativity, which in-turn will ruin team morale. Keep a fun, vibrant culture where you get to focus on not only your executive presence but also the presence of your team. You want new engineers to bust their a**es, following your example. Don’t lose your authenticity, actively grounding yourself in the community. For example, ‘show’ up at university hackathons and mentor up and coming CTO suite talent.
Eric closed the conversation by saying, “For a while, I’d convinced myself that titles didn’t really matter, and I could be effective and a great leader regardless of my title. However, since being promoted to CTO, my confidence has really risen and I’ve come to understand how much a title can mean. It signals the confidence our founders have in me and how my new peers value my contributions and has really given me a new lens on the responsibilities of leadership.”
See this article on LinkedIn.