16 ‘Rookie Mistakes’ New CTOs Often Make (And How To Avoid Them)

Most newly hired CTOs step into their roles after years of working in the tech industry. However, that doesn’t mean that someone new to the C-suite won’t experience bumps along the way when transitioning into a new leadership role — they’re expected to have a learning curve to navigate. Still, there are some common mistakes that all too many new CTOs make that, with some insight, can be avoided.

While many of the Forbes Technology Council members have held leadership positions for some time, they can all remember their early days of greater responsibility, and many have mentored and mentored other new CTOs. Below, 16 of them share some of the most common mistakes rookie CTOs make and how others can avoid the same mistakes.

1. Not having a firm understanding of business strategy

Technologists are often the best problem solvers in an organization. Therefore, a CTO needs to have a thorough understanding of business strategy and build relationships with other executives. When this is the case, the technology organization has the best chance of efficiently and effectively solving business problems using technology. – Katherine Manuel, House of the Blueberry

2. Prioritizing technology over strategy

A rookie mistake new CTOs often make is prioritizing technology over strategy. CTOs may be so focused on implementing the latest technologies that they forget to take the time to understand the company’s overall strategy and goals. They also forget to carefully consider how different technologies can be leveraged to support those goals while engaging stakeholders in the process. – Junior Bernardin, The Ron Clark Academy

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3. Disregard for company goals

The role of the CTO is to drive business goals and align the technology portfolio to achieve them, and to complement the roles of other leaders in advancing the business. Too often, new CTOs make the mistake of thinking that “CTO” means “chief engineer or architect.” As a CTO, add value, ask your peers what their goals are and how you can provide the tools to make them successful. – Ali Shaikh, graphic designer

4. Not handing over the reins when necessary

CTO is essentially a business role. Promoted CTOs should focus on the future of technology and how it aligns with business strategy, while keeping an eye on the costs and implications of change. Too many changes or a focus on pet projects can cause dismay in the team, and not relinquishing existing responsibilities or staying in a “key person” position on some projects can hurt future initiatives. -Viren Gupta, Box

5. Developing solutions too slowly

A common beginner CTO mistake is to focus too much on the technology. Technology is there to achieve business goals, not the other way around. The quicker that goes, the better. New CTOs should be very careful when looking for new solutions or building something new. Speed ​​of deployment is important – mediocre solutions that are built quickly are often better than state-of-the-art solutions that take months to build. – Arturs Kruze, Magebit

6. Neglect of relationships with key stakeholders

New CTOs can make the mistake of neglecting to build strong relationships with key stakeholders. To avoid this, they should prioritize building and maintaining relationships with the CEO, other executives, and the IT team, and seek opportunities to learn and grow. – Andres Zunino, ZirconTech

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7. Not meeting with the team often enough

A mistake many new CTOs make is not meeting with their team often enough to develop an effective strategy. As a result, a project can become disorganized or technical tools can become outdated. Email and text are great, but face-to-face meetings on Zoom or in an office setting can help the CTO and the rest of the department understand the team’s goals, pain points, and resources. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

8. Take it easy

The worst thing a CTO can do is relax, think everything is going smoothly and take it easy. Lightness can lead to stagnation. Make you uncomfortable after a break of more than a few months. Try out new tech trends, put a server upgrade through its paces in a test environment, or attend a seminar. Strive to be productive, but remember the world doesn’t stop spinning while you snooze. – Chintan Shah, Brainvire InfoTech Inc.

9. Implementing too many changes too quickly

A common “rookie mistake” that new CTOs often make is trying to implement too many changes too quickly. When taking on a new leadership role, it can be tempting to make a strong impression and make your mark on the organization by making profound changes. However, this can often be counterproductive and lead to disruption and confusion within the organization. – Ivan Novikov, Wallarm Inc.

10. Waste of resources due to lack of a strategic plan

New CTOs should create a comprehensive roadmap with achievable goals to avoid wasting resources. It’s also important to create clear roles and responsibilities for each member of the tech team so everyone knows who is responsible for what. It’s important to plan for future growth and understand how technology can be deployed, and be able to scale quickly when needed. – Mahanth Mallikarjuna, Mergen IT LLC

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11. Thinking that there is nothing to learn

A common misstep among new CTOs is the belief that they fully understand all the skills required for their position. However, the role of the CTO must evolve as technology advances – even seasoned professionals will learn something new almost every day. – Sandro Shubladze, Dataman

12. Focusing too much on the technical aspects of the job

Many new CTOs focus too much on the technical aspects of the job. A CTO must understand and align technology initiatives with the organization’s overall business goals. New CTOs should look for opportunities to build relationships with business stakeholders and learn more about the needs and challenges of the different departments within the organization. – Matthew Sopiars, Code Power

13. Not changing the business language you use

Executives move from leading teams to representing IT when promoted to a CTO role. Changing your language to match that of the average tech user and decision maker can be challenging, especially since most of the teams that report to you still use the same vocabulary. Improving your communication skills and getting feedback from the C-level team on your presentation is crucial. – Kevin Korte, Univention

14. Think of innovation only in terms of technology

Innovation is seen as the number one driver of organizational growth, and CTOs are often tasked with driving innovation. New CTOs often look closely at innovation through the eyes of new technologies and products. Beyond technology, innovations can also come from clever business models, creative designs or even new processes. New CTOs often miss these aspects of innovation. – Vishwas Manral, Skyhigh Security

15. Not thinking about short-term and long-term consequences

When making decisions, CTOs should always consider how their decisions will affect the organization in both the short and long term. Take the time to thoroughly evaluate the potential implications of a decision and consult with other stakeholders to ensure it is the best long-term decision for the organization. -Fabio Moioli, Spencer Stuart

16. Not taking enough time to thoroughly understand the existing tech stack

Too many new CTOs don’t take the time to thoroughly review and understand the company’s existing technology. They walk in thinking that in a week or two they’ll be able to understand what’s going on, which often just isn’t possible. Required updates and vulnerabilities may not be apparent at first glance, so new CTOs should take time to review the existing technology portfolio to make better decisions about improvements. – Jordan Yallen, MetaTope

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