Some executive-level roles are difficult to define from an outsider’s perspective. Two positions that can be difficult to distinguish are that of the VP of Engineering and the CTO.
As a growing company or aspiring IT executive, you need to know:
- What is the difference between a VP and a CTO?
- What responsibilities do these positions entail?
- What does it take to be a VP or CTO?
Rootstrap is here to outline CTO and VP’s roles, explain the credentials needed to fill them, and give real-life examples of a job description for each position.
VP vs. CTO
It is vital both for you and your employees to understand each team member’s roles, especially those with leadership positions such as the VP and the CTO. It will create a healthy work environment and ensure that your projects are complete, your customers are happy, and your business is booming.
What does a VP do?
A VP of Engineering establishes focus for the engineering team. They lead the team and make sure to meet all deadlines. Their primary goal is to ensure that the project is executed correctly.
VP Education and Experience Requirements
The education required to be a VP of Engineering includes a degree related to architecture, product development, and project management. Additional qualifications such as a master’s degree and an MBA are preferred.
VPs should have around five years’ experience leading high-performing teams. Experience involving project management or business development is ideal.
VP Job Description
Many times the VP of Engineering is an executive leadership position. He or she is the direct overseer of the technical staff, engineering managers, and directors. A VP is responsible for recruiting a team and retaining that team, even charting out programs for individual growth. They specialize in managing the people, the process, and the programs encouraging individuals to give their best.
VP’s role is internal and focuses on working with other engineers and peers to develop and deliver company strategies.
The VP must understand how to build systems and appropriate size processes for their team. As the team grows or shrinks, they can evolve the plans and strategies they constructed to match the team’s ability while getting a product to the market on time. The VP usually reports to the CEO or the CTO.
The VP has other responsibilities, such as strategy development, in which they work with other department heads to create a policy for directing all business decisions; they moderate and delegate engineering. Working alongside the CTO, the VP shows technical leadership by developing and implementing the technological path for the hardware and software assets. It's also not uncommon for a VP to take up the duties of a systems architect.
Overall, the VP of engineering must implement a product vision that aligns with company ideals while managing personnel in the department. That includes creating and presenting an annual budget for the engineering department, including employee incentives, tooling costs, and other overhead. They must ensure that the product vision is realized and perfectly executed.
To better understand what is required of a VP, here is an example of a real VP of engineering position found on Linkedin:
Vice President, Engineering
Target Tech is looking for an experienced leader to lead the Production Engineering (PE) organization. PE is a vast discipline responsible for delivering high availability across product experiences and platforms. Consequently, we’re open to candidates with expertise in one or more domains, including but not limited to Application Development, Platform Engineering, Developer Tools, IT products, Infrastructure as a Service, or Data Engineering.
In this role, you will build on a culture of diversity, curiosity, openness, accountability, and most of all, a one-team approach to construct and evangelize the big picture across distributed systems, including how systems relate to each other and develop a breadth of tools and approaches to solve a broad spectrum of problems.
You will have the opportunity to flex your technical chops and work with leaders in your organization to establish architectural principles, identify cutting-edge technologies and patterns, and increase the talent density of this already strong team. You will work with your peers and industry leaders to adapt, advance, and evangelize Site Reliability Engineering - culture, technology patterns, and best practices.
- Establish reliability, performance, and scalability goals to help Target continue to be the most trusted brand in retail.
- Foster and facilitate the professional growth and development of our engineering staff as well as lead effective cross-functional collaboration across groups within the organization.
- Build organizational capability within these teams by recruiting and retaining outstanding talent and providing mentoring, training (internal and external), and other opportunities for professional growth and development.
- Deliver best-in-class products that developers and customers love to use because they can be trusted and easily integrated into their process and tooling.
- An understanding of segmenting monolithic applications to smaller microservices and lead the team through technical challenges in implementation.
- Communicate design and decisions and influence technology and product direction of peers and executive leadership.
- Lead organization change management across technology and business organizations. Communicate plans effectively. Involve teams early. Be open and flexible to accommodate feedback and modify designs or timelines with transparency.
- BS or MS in Computer Science, Engineering, or a related technical discipline or equivalent experience
- Designing and architecting software products and/or platforms. Experience with AWS Services such as EC2, Lambda, or GCP Services such as App Engine, Big Query
- Architecting, designing and developing, and building Microservices using a leading technology stack like Spring / Spring Cloud.
- Proficient in Java, RESTful APIs, API Gateway, Microservices communications, RDBMS/NoSQL DB, and DevOps methodologies and tools
What Does a CTO do?
CTOs are experts in the market and in developing modern technologies. They work to innovate and create products and are always looking for the next big solution.
CTO Education and Experience Requirements
A bachelor’s degree is the bare minimum requirement for a CTO. Because competition is intense for this position, most companies will give preference to job candidates with master’s degrees. An MBA with a specialization in Information Technology Management will improve someone’s chances of applying for a CTO position.
CTO Job Description
The focus of the CTO is to develop new technology that meets or exceeds industry standards. He or she is at the center of thought leadership and creation and is responsible for establishing its engineering vision and culture. The CTO works closely with the VP of engineering to align new technology with the business’s vision by charting and guiding technical strategy. They also work with architects, research engineers, tech leads, and engineering management leads.
A CTO will spend much of his time researching new platforms, architectures, and existing tech so he can better provide technical direction and leadership.
CTOs are also responsible for filing technological patents and enforcing existing patents to improve the company’s revenue. Doing so helps with company expenses. They also identify how new technologies and innovations can be used to improve the bottom line.
Most importantly, The CTO must maintain the company's technological edge. Otherwise, the company will lose market share and collapse. He must protect the company’s technical assets by implementing cybersecurity measures and by properly assessing threats.
The CTO is the company’s technical face and works closely with customers while collaborating with the board and other in-house leaders.
To better understand the responsibilities of a CTO, take a look at this CTO position advertised on Linkedin:
Chief Technology Offer
Blanket is currently looking for a Chief Technology Officer with product management experience as well.
Blanket is an operations platform built for multi-unit restaurant operators. Think of our platform as Jira for restaurants. Our product helps create efficiencies at each level of a restaurant group by automating repetitive tasks for team members and rewards employees for getting things done on time.
- Manage a small collaborative team of 5 developers.
- Work closely with the CEO to strategize on the company’s product road map.
- Leverage mobile, web, and IoT technologies to solve today’s business problems.
- Collaborate with diverse teams to drive successful outcomes as well as sharing knowledge with others.
- Architect and design mobile and web technical solutions with the right mix of Blanket’s products and capabilities to balance an array of configurations and customizations.
- Distill complex technical solutions that ultimately lead to the design of mobile solution architectures and strategy.
- Handle in-depth technical questions during meetings calls as they relate to implementing Blanket’s mobile and web solutions.
- You have 3+ years of management experience, with a majority of time focusing on mobile and web solutions in the b2b space.
- Strong working knowledge of JS, React, React Native, Objective C, and/or Swift.
- Strong experience with Agile development.
- You love working in a dynamic environment and with a global team.
- Previous work experience partnering with Product and Engineering teams
- Familiarity with SaaS and Cloud architecture patterns
VP vs. CTO Duties
VP Job ResponsibilitiesCTO Job ResponsibilitiesStrategy DevelopmentLeads Engineering DepartmentTechnical LeadershipManaging the Patent PortfolioEngineering Work Maintaining Technological EdgePersonnel and Program ManagementTechnical LeadershipFinancial PlanningUtilizes Capital to Make InvestmentsVP vs. CTO
Factors Affecting VP and CTO Roles
The roles of the VP and CTO vary from company to company. Factors such as the business’s size or the changes in its digital landscape affect what the VP and CTO contribute to everyday tasks and the big picture.
When a company is still in its early stages, one of the co-founders typically takes on the role of CTO, providing all the technical aspects of the company. As a company grows and begins to hire employees, and more project and people management are required, the CTO won’t spend as much time on technical explorations. A VP is often hired to take on the role of product and people management, allowing the CTO to focus on technological developments.
Changes in Digital Landscape
As the technological world continues to evolve, CTOs and VPs will gradually have to adjust their roles. Social media outlets and forms of advertising will keep progressing, and companies will need to consider how these changes in the digital landscape can improve their business. Both CTOs and VPs will need to be up to date on these new B2B Marketing SaaS best practices and communication forms.
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