CTO (Chief Technical Officer)


Today a new series starts on my blog. From now on, every Wednesday I’ll publish an interview with an amazing tech person, asking about their job title and what it really means. As a novice programmer, I always wondered what responsibilities and roles certain jobs included, and it was difficult sometimes to make sense of all these different positions. That’s why I decided to ask the techies themselves to shed some light on what it is they are exactly doing.

Enjoy the very first interview with Russell Keith-Magee, Django Core Developer. I had the pleasure to meet Russell when he volunteered to coach at Django Girls Amsterdam. Find him on Twitter: @freakboy3742 .

What’s your job title?

Chief Technical Officer and Co-Founder.

What’s your company’s product?

Our product is the TradesCloud.com website. It’s a Software-as-a-Service for use by tradespeople (plumbers, electricians, etc). It enables tradespeople to record work that customers have requested, schedule that work, record the status of that work over time, invoice for the work once it’s been done, and manage payments. As well as the website, there’s a mobile application that integrates with the site.

Why did you choose that position?

The position chose me 🙂 It’s a startup company, with only 2 employees – me and my co-founder. My co-founder covers the business-related tasks; I do the technical tasks.

Could you describe what it is that you do and how exactly does your work contribute to the development of the company’s product?

Honestly, whatever needs to be done. My work *is* the product – I build everything from the website to the mobile app. We’re a company of 2 people, so I can’t pass things to another department. From a software perspective, I handle all the feature development and bug fixes. I handle all the deployment and operations (including handling the emergency pager). I do all the day-to-day customer support, training of new customers, and sales presentations to new customers. I also help “steer the ship” – as co-founder, I’m half the board, so I’m involved in strategic discussions and negotiations that affect the direction of the company as a whole.

What skills and / or qualifications are usually required to do your job?

Formally, I’m a Bachelor of Science (Physics), a Bachelor of Science (Computer Science)(Honours), and a Doctor of Philosophy.

I graduated in 2001; since then, I’ve been employed as a Software Engineer or Senior Software Engineer, doing much the same sort of work as I do today. Over time, I’ve gone from being supervised to doing the supervision, and my level of exposure and responsibility for business critical code and customers has increased.

If I was hiring someone to fill my shoes, I’d be looking for a generalist skill set. From a purely technical perspective, that means someone who can handle everything from operations to the front end. But it’s not just about technical skills – you need to be an effective communicator to a wide range of audiences – in my case, I need to be able to train and support customers who sometimes have low levels of education, but also present a compelling sales argument to CFOs, CEOs and other board members.

Why did you choose that specific company to work for?

It’s my own company, and nobody else was going to work for free in the early days 🙂

Prior to starting my own company, I’ve worked at a number of startups, and had an itch to do something on my own. My co-founder was my boss in my very first job out of university. We caught up a few years back, started kicking around some ideas; those ideas eventually turned into a the company we run today.

Thank you Russell for your time to answer my questions and the excellent insight it provides.

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