The key to being a successful Chief Technology Officer is having both a technical vision for the company and experience managing people. Regardless of this vision and experience, every CTO is going to make mistakes, especially as they make moves to scale their engineering team. Here are the six common mistakes CTOs make during the process that should be avoided.
Building a Team at a Too Rapid Pace
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are top-notch engineering teams. It’s not uncommon for a CTO to feel the pressure to build their engineering team at an expedited pace, but this can hurt the business in the long run. Every member of your team needs to fit perfectly and contribute as a whole, which won’t happen if you rush the hiring process.
Don’t cut corners when it comes to time and money when trying to find the best cultural fit for the team. If you do, you’ll come to the conclusion down the line that your engineers don’t mesh together and projects are taking longer to complete. Data scientists, DevOps engineers, front-end engineers, and solution architects will all be focused on different tasks as they possess different skills. When everyone knows their purpose and fits into the culture of the business, you are likely to end up with a highly effective and productive engineering team.
If you let the pressure of needing to hire quickly affect your team, you’ll quickly see the cost of making a bad hire, both literally and figuratively. According to well-known recruiter Jӧrgen Sundberg, cost of onboarding an employee is $240,000. The U.S. Department of Labor also states the price of a bad hire to be at least 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings. From the negative impact on team performance to lost customers and even incomplete projects, ensuring you make the right hire is a pivotal choice you’ll make as a CTO.
Hiring Only Senior-Level Employees
When scaling your engineering team, the dynamic of its members is vital for flow and effectiveness. Some CTOs may think that to achieve the maximum potential the goal is to hire as many senior-level employees as possible, and this isn’t the case. For a functioning engineering team at its full potential, hire junior and mid-level engineers with a few seniors. When doing so, the senior-level engineers can help scale the company and mentor the junior and mid-level engineers to ensure they’re progressing at the right pace.
Additionally, too many senior-level employees could result in clashing, as their seniority, experience, and opinions could make for a tense work environment. If you spread out your senior-level employees across various teams or sections of your engineering team, there is a better chance that they’ll end up mentoring and creating new leaders, ensuring your business thrives in the long run.
Not Having a Clear Business Plan
No matter what direction the company is going, and what is on the project schedule for your engineering team, having a clear plan is extremely important for success. For instance, if your team is rolling out a new project or feature, knowing when it will be released to your user base needs to be discussed in a sprint prior to its development.
This also includes having a technical strategy that consists of goal-setting, analyzing risks, and discussing all of your options. As a CTO, utilize both your technical skills and business sense to align the business objectives with the strategy your engineering team has in place. Once you do, this plan will potentially pique the interest of supporters and new clients and attract funding to upcoming projects, as it can also be used as part of a sales pitch.
If done correctly, your overall plan for the engineering team will lay out its growth and the steps to get there. Plus, all members of your team will have to know what is expected of them in the future and how to achieve it.
Outsourcing vs Insourcing
When staffing your engineering team, you may be wrestling with whether to go the outsourcing or insourcing route. Both are methods used to disperse work among various departments for strategic and cost reasons.
Insourcing is when your team consists of hired developers or contract works that do not work directly for the company but work in-office. On the other hand, outsourcing is when these developers or contracts are working out of the office. Oftentimes, when working with development and engineering teams, this means they would be located in a foreign country. Which option you choose could seriously affect the progress and state of projects and features within your team.
At Egen, we have years of experience working with insourcing, so we can place industry experts with the specialized skill sets your engineering team is looking for. This will ensure your team can rapidly scale new features and projects that have a shorter time to launch window. And, when you choose to work with Egen, your company won’t be bogged down by the hiring process of interviewing and checking references. You can rest assured that we have brought together the best talent, removing any responsibilities needed for training, which could result in more overhead costs for your company.
Not Delegating Tasks
As a CTO, your time is valuable, but a the same time, you’re asked to take on more tasks than ever before. Knowing when to delegate to other team members in an effective way is one of the skills you know you need to have, but knowing and doing are two separate things. The main goal in doing so is being a great resource and leader without being a bottleneck for your team.
To make sure you’re delegating the right tasks to the right employees, take the time to know what they’re passionate about and most skilled at. Having this information when new tasks arise makes it easy to choose who does what. This also ensures you designate some engineers on your team as the “technical leaders” so they’re able to guide the direction of more and more assignments.
When delegating, confirm that the tasks are fully thought out so the employee knows exactly what is being asked of them. This should include time, budget, and context. Once the task is delegated out, make sure there is a clear understanding of the details, which could be detrimental to the success or failure of the task. Then, confirm they are committed to the end result and regularly communicate with your team member during the course of the process.
Setting Unreachable Expectations
Going hand in hand with delegating tasks to your team is verifying that these tasks don’t come with unreachable expectations. As a CTO who knows the strengths and weaknesses of the engineers on your team, and has experience working on similar projects and features, you know what can and cannot be done in a standard work day.
A survey conducted by Gallup states that as many as 50% of workers say they don’t know what is expected of them in their role. If your job as a CTO doesn’t including making sure expectations are explained, you’re setting yourself, and your team, up for inevitable issues down the line. Setting these standards will ensure your engineers remain focused, while also alleviating frustration among team members.
Once expectations are set, don’t simply walk away and hope for the best. Hold your engineers accountable for meeting these expectations and provide feedback relative to their performance. Checking in on your team should be a regular part of your schedule, whether it be a monthly meeting or a quick conference call at the start of every week.
Let Egen Help Scale Your Team
No CTO is perfect and it’s impossible to be ready for everything the day will throw at you. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty when it comes to the tasks you’re faced with. And when you recognize these six common mistakes that CTOs make when scaling engineering teams, you can consciously work to steer clear of them to ensure your team is running at peak productivity. If you’re in need of assistance when building up your team, contact Egen, experts in Teams-as-a-Service, to ensure your department is performing at the level you need it to.
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