What Does a Modern CTO Look Like? - David DeWolf

What Does a Modern CTO Look Like?

800 533 David DeWolf

Recently at 3Pillar, we began searching for a CTO to join our executive team. As I began to soft launch the CTO job description in order to source candidates from my network, I started to get a curious set of responses. I was hearing from all sorts of folks who didn’t necessarily want the job, or know of a candidate. They were just impressed by the job description.

Here’s one such response:

Sorry I don’t have a candidate, but I just wanted to say “what an awesomely worded job description”!

Who writes them for you?

Also, if you end up in a horse race between two strong candidates – let us know who your number two is. We may need a person like this in about 4-6 months.

Another person commented:

I’ve never seen such a good description for a ‘modern’ CTO. You should publish this.

Here’s what I’ve realized. In today’s digital economy, every single business is becoming a software product company and very few executives know where to start when it comes to hiring a CTO. As more an more stodgy industries enter the digital economy, more and more product CTOs will be needed. In fact, the modern CTOs required for the “Software is your Brand” era are a bit different from traditional R&D oriented CTOs.

And so I’ve decided to take my respondent’s advice and publish the description. If you’re an executive that’s looking to hire a CTO, hopefully, you will find this job description helpful in beginning to put your requisition together.


You are ultimately responsible for creating a culture of innovation, embedding the product mindset, and ensuring delivery excellence is a priority throughout our organization. You do this by leading our Product and Technology teams and instilling within them the product mindset. You are passionate about finding ways for software to disrupt industries, and you know and understand the capabilities required to enable that disruption. Your business aptitude, strategic thinking, and creative abilities and relationship capital complement your deep technology expertise and passion for agile software development.


  • Provide corporate leadership, along with the CEO, CFO, and EVP of Market and Client Services as a key member of the Senior Executive team, participating in the refinement of the company’s vision, the development of strategies, governance and the continued success of our goal to be an employer of choice.
  • Lead the execution of our innovation and delivery strategy, integrating tightly with our go-to-market team in order to ensure that we deliver on our promises, delight our customers, and achieve the vision of becoming the most respected company in the product development services sector.
  • Actively engage with the market, prospects and clients as a thought leader and expert in software innovation and product development. Become the ‘face’ for our “ProdTech” organization and a trusted advisor to our clients.
  • Lead our product strategy, product management, user experience, advanced technology, and engineering teams. Spearhead and continue to shape our core offerings – Innovate, Accelerate and Elevate.
  • Lead 3Pillar’s internal R&D activities, including the development of 3Pillar Navigate, solution accelerators, and our 3Pillar Labs strategy.


Executive Leadership

  • You prioritize your participation in the senior executive team as a top priority. You are driven by a desire to be a part of a high-performing team and understand that corporate results are driven by collaboration across the entire business.
  • You are a strategic thinker and natural leader. You develop strategies that align to our vision and translate them into action. You motivate and inspire others to achieve more than any individual could on their own.
  • You galvanize and create high-performing product and technology teams. You hold them accountable and ensure that they deliver high-quality products to the market while remaining actively engaged and committed to their professional development and career growth at 3Pillar.
  • You have sound judgment and are unencumbered in making both deliberate and rapid decisions. You are not afraid to challenge the status quo, experiment, or, even fail, but, you have the confidence and experience to ensure that all failures are smart failures and to minimize your losses.
  • You actively live our corporate and cultural values. You are seen as adhering to the highest levels of integrity. You build genuine, trusted relationships with team members and other constituents and treat every individual, no matter how junior or senior, with the utmost dignity and respect.
  • You are innovative in your approach to solving problems for clients and colleagues alike – having both a deep understanding of technology and a broad understanding of market trends that impact our business.
  • You demonstrate both the strength and flexibility required to be agile and an agent of change so that your innovative ideas are embraced by others.
  • You are flexible and results-oriented. You can adjust quickly to changing priorities while maintaining an acute focus on corporate objectives. You are able to act quickly when required and deliberately when appropriate.
  • You are the embodiment of our commitment to delivery excellence (across both product strategy and product engineering and advanced technology). You represent 3Pillar to and gain the confidence of prospects and clients.

Product Strategy

  • You are a creative innovator. You are able to see things that others cannot. You collect volumes of information and naturally draw conclusions about disparate data-points. You recognize market trends and are able to apply them to various industries. You are able to articulate these trends in a way that appeals to a variety of personalities and audiences – the media, clients, prospects, board members and employees.
  • You have a strong grasp of Lean Startup methodologies and value principles such as minimally viable products, concept validation and rapid experimentation.
  • You have a firm grasp of the product management discipline. You understand how to rapidly build a roadmap and the importance of continually evolving that roadmap. You are able to mentor others and articulate the importance of strong product management.
  • You value the entire product ecosystem and you understand that to craft successful products, all areas of the organization from marketing and finance to engineering and support must be integrated at appropriate levels and intervals to create optimal outcomes.
  • You can gently guide and influence clients in the development of their product and technology strategies.
  • You have a strong ability to forge relationships to gather information and to craft strategies. You provide clients and teammates sage advice on the full product canvas and collaboratively guide customers on how to bring their products to market in a way that creates a deeply engaging relationship with their customers and generates additional revenue for our clients.


  • You have a passion for and stay abreast of the latest technologies. You explore new trends and form opinions about which will become mainstream and how they will impact industries and market behavior.
  • You actively and continually share these opinions with the Sr. Leadership team. You have ridden the wave of mobile and big data, you are knowledgeable about predictive analytics and wearables, and you understand how these movements reach adoption and impact businesses.
  • You have deep experience in architecting scalable solutions and are able to find the appropriate trade-offs between architectural purity and pragmatic realities. You have both deep expertise and a wide breadth of experience in the application of various technologies to multiple industries. You have formed technology strategy for multiple products that have proven successful.
  • You are seen as a mentor by seasoned technologists and are able to go toe-to-toe with architects and engineers. While you have learned to manage a vast team in order to scale, you are able to provide relevant architecture and design leadership to any software product team.


  • You are skilled at building high-performing teams. You understand how to attract and retain strong engineering talent and excel at building teams that collaborate effectively and deliver results. You have experience working in a global organization and are able to bring the strengths of various cultures and environments together to create a successful product organization.
  • You understand how to balance the reality of changing business priorities with the need to provide predictable releases. You create high-performing agile development teams that are able to quickly iterate and respond to customer feedback while simultaneously delivering predictable results. You are considered an expert and evangelist for agile methodologies.
  • You possess vast experience with software design principles and are passionate about software craftsmanship. You have a love for rapidly bringing software to life and can still be found in the code every once in a while, building a rapid prototype, mentoring an engineer, or, helping to find a performance issue.
  • You have experience working in a distributed environment and with global teams.


  • You have at least 10 years in product technology leadership and 20 years in a product or engineering-related role.
  • You have successfully led the development of multiple products of meaningful visibility and scale.
  • You have participated in the entire product lifecycle, from ideation through end-of-life.
  • You are the embodiment of the product mindset – strong business aptitude and market awareness combined with deep technical expertise.
  • You are an expert in lean startup and agile software development methodologies.
  • You are a phenomenal teammate and prioritize your team over individual accolades.
  • You are a natural leader and charismatic personality. You attract others and have either established yourself as or can be seen as a thought leader.
  • You likely have an advanced computer science, math, or similar degree.
  • You have consistently demonstrated high levels of emotional intelligence and have received 360-degree feedback supporting your leadership in this regard.