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A follow up to this question:

The Written Roles of Software Development Manager

What is the role and what are the responsibilities of a CTO when it's done well, with particular reference to how it might pertain to a programmer with aspirations towards this sort of position?

(Reason for asking - it's one potential career destination for programmers looking to move away from a purely hands-on role and for those with this sort of ambition it's worth knowing what it actually entails).

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Hmm, interesting question. Different CTO's approach the job in different ways of course. –  Kyle Hodgson Oct 31 '12 at 13:06
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CTO is a business role not a technical role. So I think i would disagree with your assessment it's a logical ultimate career destination for programmers. Most programmers I have seen with ambition end up as an expert on some niche. –  Chad Oct 31 '12 at 18:22
    
A technical director and a CTO are themselves pretty different roles depending on the company. In many companies, a Technical Director is akin to a Software Development Manager (as described in the linked question), and would be more of a natural career move for programmers with management acumen & desire, while the traditional CTO position tends far more toward business, strategy, management, and leadership than it does technical work, and is often not a good fit for someone purely technical. Can you focus the question more, or clarify a bit? –  jcmeloni Oct 31 '12 at 19:14
    
@Chad - corrected to say it's one potential career destination. I wasn't ever intending to have it sound like the aim for everyone, but as many CTOs have some sort of programming or technical background, it's certainly a fairly well trodden route. –  Jon Hopkins Nov 2 '12 at 9:30
    
@jcmeloni - dropped the Technical Director part to remove that confusion and added a little more. –  Jon Hopkins Nov 2 '12 at 9:32
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1 Answer

I am trying to give you a perspective rather than a formal JD that would be more helpful. I hope my being technology head might help you.

A CTO would be the final authority to decide upon the Technology roadmap which will have a very strategic impact on the business at large (depending on the nature of the business of course). Understand that - the peers of CTO are the Sales, Finance and business development persons who are visualizing a business problems and constraints of the existing market (resources, finance, competitor's advantages etc.). So the CTO needs to start from there to transform into the targets of the various products, and infrastructures and deliver that within the acceptable time and most importantly for the available resources (human resource and capex) in the best way.

In the process CTO is responsible for all "technology decisions" as well as "development efforts" to produce the relevant work. Such decisions also include 'build vs. out source vs. buy', and which platform to work on and what new original work will be useful what might not make a business impact and hence not to over invest.

Now, don't view this as a one time affair. A good CTO knows, that time will change and new demands will come. Hence, under his capacity, she/he needs to keep up updating competence of ones' team and keep up better.

In a nut-shell, CTO is responsible for creating a team of competence and suit of products (or service infrastructure) through continued decisions and execution.

Trust me, it is really easier said than done!

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