Technology is a crucial aspect of business operations, and the chief technology officer plays an important role in ensuring the company’s viability and profitability. The CTO is the executive who oversees technology-related aspects of the business including innovation, adoption and creation of relevant policies. The CTO should be highly skilled in both technology-related aspects and the business side to leverage technology assets to achieve corporate goals. Primary tasks of the CTO include identifying risks and opportunities as they relate to corporate goals, managing research and development, monitoring technological developments and social trends that may impact the company’s operations, participating in management initiatives concerning corporate governance, ensuring that employees, management, partners, and investors are aware of technology strategies and maintaining current information related to technology standards and compliance guidelines.

What it takes to Become a Chief Technology Officer

In-depth knowledge of the technical and technological side of the business will provide a solid understanding of operations and processes. But if you are serious about becoming a CTO, take advantage of opportunities that will provide exposure to the business side. As a technology expert, you will most likely be involved in product development, quality control and research. On the business end, part of your job will be to determine how customers interact with the product or service. You will seek feedback and communicate the information to the research and development team for them to work on solutions.

The CTO needs to be adept at communication because the tasks may involve translating technical information for non-technical people. The executive team may not have comprehensive knowledge of the technical aspects of core products and services. To get them to buy into recommended equipment upgrades for instance, you will have to present the recommendation in terms that they will understand. Knowledge of business finance is mandatory for a CTO to effectively align technological initiatives to the overall corporate mission.

Academic Requirements for the Top Tech Position

CTOs reach their position via different career paths. Start by completing a bachelor’s degree in finance or business. You can also launch your career from the technical side by earning a bachelor’s in information technology, software engineering, computer engineering or a related specialization. Foundational knowledge in at least one technical field will establish your career path in the tech field.

Strengthen your resume with a master’s in business administration or a master of science in engineering or similar field. An MBA is not required to ascend to a CTO position, but it is a preferred credential by executive recruiters. Note that if you have a bachelor’s in a non-technology field such as finance, you should opt to pursue a master’s in a tech program such as information technology or computer applications.

Build on your Work Experience

Add practical experience to your skill set by working in the industry of your choice. Spend at least five to seven years in a technology-related environment, enhancing your management skills as you move up to positions of greater responsibility. Learn as much as you can about the business and the industry as a whole. The opportunity for a CTO position may come from companies other than your current employer.

The chief technology officer occupies an executive position that may or may not be part of the C-suite, depending on the size and organizational structure of the company. It requires extensive knowledge of the company’s operations, processes and products so that you can effectively direct technology resources toward satisfying business goals. It requires years of preparation to qualify for a CTO position, but it will certainly be a rewarding position in many ways.