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The road to success: Tech leaders tell all

Paul Heltzel | March 29, 2016
To get to the top of the org chart, you'll need more than basic dev skills. Today's head honchos offer their wisdom on getting ahead

If you’ve ever looked around your company headquarters and thought to yourself: “I should be running things,” maybe you’re right. For those with vision, tech chops, and people skills -- along with a laser focus on turning a profit -- being a company’s tech lead may be the right fit.

But you have questions: “How do I get started? Do I need a graduate degree? And what’s it like to manage effectively at the highest levels?”

Luckily, we have answers from a range of technology executives from firms around the country -- long-established players and plucky startups. These experts shared what it takes to lead, how they began, what they learned along the way, and the best way to make the leap to the top of the org chart.

Tech leadership in 2016

When Steve Nigro started at Hewlett-Packard 35 years ago, he was an engineer developing the company’s first inkjet printer. Today, he runs the company’s 3D printing business.

“We’ve seen enormous shifts in technology and how work gets done,” Nigro says. “This experience has taught me that strong leadership in innovation and technology is the foundation for compelling businesses. You must never lose sight of where technology is going and the implication on industries and your business.”

Jeanine Banks, global head of products and solutions, Axway
“Tech leaders these days increasingly need current software coding skills.” -- Jeanine Banks, global head of products and solutions, Axway

In addition to readying yourself for constant change and the ability to understand new technology, you’ll also benefit from the skills that got you where you are today.

“Tech leaders these days increasingly need current software coding skills,” says Jeanine Banks, global head of products and solutions at Axway. “You don’t have to be an expert and maybe you’ll never create an app that pays the bills, but it definitely helps in keeping a personal understanding of how software can be applied to business problems and opportunities.”

DomainTools CTO Bruce Roberts argues that leadership means being able to make decisions that go beyond engineering the product.

Bruce Roberts, CTO, DomainTools
“I can't succeed as a technical leader unless I can attract and retain engineers.” -- Bruce Roberts, CTO, DomainTools

“I can't succeed as a technical leader unless I can attract and retain engineers,” says Roberts, who heads DomainTools’ Seattle and Luxembourg engineering teams. “I inherited job postings that were clearly not speaking to engineers. They contained way too much fluff and not enough substance. I rewrote those to be much more engineer-focused and very specific about the interesting technical benefits and challenges engineers would have if they came to work for me.”

 

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