Congrats you are Field CTO… now what?

I had the good fortune of being an early adopter of the title Field CTO which is a wonderful thing except thats not the last job I want to have so what is my career progression. I didn’t even think about that 5 years ago when I took the position and as I have seen other friends and colleagues move into the role they are in the same position.

Let’s first look at what a Field CTO is. It’s a great title that encompasses the combination of technical prowess and people skills. The challenge is that that is very broad and every company seems to define it differently, even to the level of where the position lies in the organization. I reported up through the product management side, I know others that have reported to sales and others to marketing. I know some that have their own teams and some that are solo acts. It seems very company dependent. The skill set being asked for also varies from a very technical CTO style to a super SE and even at times to just a marketing evangelist.

With all the different types of jobs and roles the next question is how does one end up in this role? I believe there are 2 ways, the first is that the person has been in house and has knowledge across so many areas of the business that you don’t want to lose them and the title is a stepping stone. The second is someone who comes into a company specifically to fill that senior technical field role when a natural CTO is not as presentable to customers. What both of these have in common is that rarely does a company have a growth plan in place before filling the position.

Once you are a Field CTO what is the next role? During my interview process when changing jobs I found this to be a harder topic than I realized. My position being in Product Management seemed to worry people that I would not be able to be as outward focused as they wanted. Then I had the concern about any position I was talking to would be a step down career wise so they assumed I would not take it. I even had one company that thought because I had field experience I must not be technical at all and I was just a marketer.

I decided that I would just have to look at the title and determine on my own if I was interviewing someone would it look like a step down, when I said no then the title was fine. I never really cared about the title except for that anyway. Then I had to hope my years of experience came through during the interview process to show I had both technical chops and personality. For me I think I will end up back in a people manager/mentor type role while still having my hands on some tech to know the product, but for now I choose a role that lets me use my outbound and technical skills. Who knows maybe the next one will be a CEO or a CTO or a position I have never heard of yet.

I don’t claim to know what the next position is but I truly hope that those in the position now are able to talk to their management teams and figure it out since this won’t be your last job.

Onward and Upward

“I have to believe in the tech before I ever consider a startup”

That was what I said just over 7 years ago when I got asked to join Nexenta. I saw a product that was looking to change an industry and a new and exciting opportunity. Over the last 7 years I have not been disappointed at all but there comes a time for change and today is that day.

After working at resellers, Nexenta was the first vendor I decided join and I started as a Sales Engineer before moving into a Director role and then only a year in to a role working in Product Marketing. I had less than zero knowledge outside my schooling and outside experience on marketing but management gave me a chance. After another short year and some company changes I got shifted into Product Management and day to day work with development and engineering teams. I never expected it to be a good move and I dreaded it at the time, I would have to leave the field. Much to my surprise, I found this new role to be exciting and challenging and I had to learn an entirely new side of IT. The next move was probably the most exciting for my career when I was asked to partially return to my roots and go back out into the field as the Field CTO. This meant I got to work with our largest customers and prospects and now knowing the product management side I was also able to translate all the customer needs and wants into engineering requirements. Overall the career progression at Nexenta was amazing but that pales in comparison to the people I have met. I can not thank them enough, even the ones that have left and asked me why I stayed so long.

And on that note, I stayed because I was waiting for the right position with the right company and today I start in what I believe will be that position. Today marks day one with Cohesity as a Principal Technologist (More later on the challenges of going from Field CTO to anything) . I will be joining a team of amazingly talented people that are well known in each of their respective communities, Chris Colotti, Jon Hildebrand and Teresa Miller. The four of us make up the TAG or Technical Advocacy Group and are focused on the outbound technical messaging. This time around I didn’t just look for great tech, which I do believe Cohesity has, but also a great company that is growing and dynamic. I am excited to hit the ground running for a new challenge!