What it takes to be a CTO

September 8, 2009

Over two years ago, after three months at EDS as an Architect, I was given the position of an Assistant CTO for Transaction Banking on one of our largest global accounts. The account was a major European bank that was truly international in its reach. Its Transaction Banking business unit was the largest within the bank, and had over 10,000 servers and the largest Oracle 10g grid in the world.

Talk about being thrown in at the deep end!

My job was essentially to take over the reigns of the CTO whilst he busied himself with the bid for renewing our contract with the client; that was a full-time job in its own right. After just three months at EDS, I still had very little idea about the various standards, EDS’s as well as the client’s, or the general processes for getting things done within the huge enterprise. But I was extremely lucky. Sitting right across the desk from me was a well regarded and respected CTO: Gerry Stollof, the CTO for the Group Functions business unit.

Not only was Gerry very clever but he was a very kind gentleman who quickly took me under his wings and became my mentor. He mentored me on the big picture whilst I did the leg-work for my job. One of the first things I learnt from him was what the founder of EDS, Ross Perot, had tried to drill into his employees:

Figure 1: Perot’s Grass-roots Wisdom

So the main gist of my ‘big picture’ training from Gerry was essentially for me to think of myself as the owner and CEO of EDS and our client when doing my job. That really was a paradigm shift and I think the best advice that any CTO could receive. After all, the CTO’s main function is client care, and to represent the client (or at least to believe that he represents the client’s best interests) when doing his job.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: