To code or not to code? The CTO dilemma

Posted: 20 Aug 2019

To code or not to code? The CTO dilemma

CTOs often ask whether they should continue to code when they are promoted to the senior leadership team. In this article, we explain some of the factors to consider if you are facing this dilemma.

The Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is a senior executive on a company’s leadership team. Along with other senior executives like the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the Chief Operations Officer (COO), the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and the Chief Information Officer (CIO), the CTO is responsible for implementing business strategy.

Difference between CTO and CIO

The CTO is in charge of developing the technology that the organisation sells and must ensure that it is aligned with customer demand. Because of the strategic nature of their work, CTOs play a vital role, helping their organisations to compete and succeed. They drive innovation and ensure that technology priorities support the overall business strategy.

The CTO’s focus is external whereas a CIO oversees the organisation’s internal IT. While CTO and CIO roles are sometimes blended in smaller organisations, in large organisations they tend to be separate so as to better meet internal and external objectives.

Should a CTO continue to code?

CTOs often come from a coding background and a question that can arise is whether they should continue to code when they are promoted to the leadership team. Depending on the circumstances, the answer to this question can vary from one business to another. Set out below are some of the factors to consider when deciding what works best for you and your organisation.

Keeping up to date

In today’s fast-paced digital economy, products rapidly evolve and organisations can quickly lose out to competitors or new entrants if they fail to keep pace. Coding and programming on a regular basis helps CTOs to keep their skills up to date and makes it easier to understand the issues that their developers are facing.

Understanding technical challenges

To effectively oversee product development, CTOs need to have an in-depth understanding of technical challenges. Continuing to code can be a good way to keep on top of this and is helpful when planning, estimating timescales and evaluating how solutions are performing.


The more senior your role in an organisation the more important it is to have strong communication and influencing skills. CTOs need to be able to motivate, mentor and coach the teams that report to them. Notwithstanding the advantages of continuing to code, it is important CTOs do not allow their personal interest in coding to adversely impact their team and/or organisation. To be effective in a leadership role, the CTO must know when to delegate so as to ensure the success of a project. The focus should always be on what is best for the business.

Looking for CTO roles?

A specialist IT recruiter will be able to help you find suitable CTO roles. With 20 years’ experience in the IT sector, Eolas Recruitment has an excellent network of contacts and strong relationships with many leading employers. We understand that discretion is important as you may not be ready to disclose that you are contemplating a move. Check out our online reviews and contact us to find out more about our services and how we can help you realise your leadership ambitions.

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