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20% of CTOs reached the position in less than five years - A fast career path?

By Ryan Morris-Reade
Wed 9 Mar 2022

STX Next research has found that 20% of CTOs reached their position in fewer than five years, demonstrating a fast, viable career path.

According to STX Next research, a European software development company specialising in Python, a fifth of CTOs reached the position in fewer than five years. It found a further 35% of respondents took 5-10 years to reach CTO, while 27% took 11-15 years. The company says the results highlight the surprising speed at which a CTO position can be achieved and proves it is a viable career path for aspiring tech professionals.

The findings were taken from STX Next's 2021 Global CTO Survey, which gathered insights from over 500 CTOs. And other findings from the research included:

There are multiple routes to CTO: The research found 33% of those surveyed say they joined the organisation as a CTO from another company. While around 29% of CTOs were promoted from within their organisation, and 34% said they co-founded a business and became CTO immediately.

On-the-job experience is crucial: 70% of CTOs were formerly software developers or engineers, 60% were tech leads or engineering managers, and 29% were project managers. Only 7% were academic personnel before becoming CTO.

Around a third of CTOs report high job satisfaction: On a scale of one to five, 35% rated their job a five and 43% rated it a four.

However, salary satisfaction is lower: Just 18% of respondents rated their salary a five, while 31% rated it a three.

There's also room for improvement in satisfaction with teams: 44% scored a four out of five, but 26% gave a three. Similarly, 41% rated their software development velocity a three, and 30% gave it a four.

"Our research shows that there is a clear and viable career path for aspiring CTOs," says STX Next, CEO, Maciej Dziergwa.

"With a strong work ethic, the right blend of technical and soft skills and enough on-the-job experience, it's very realistic for professionals to reach the position in just a few years. It's also positive to see a high overall level of job satisfaction among CTOs."

He says while this is promising, there is work to be done in improving the role for the future. "Organisational leaders should look at ways to support their CTOs even further, be it through better salaries, placing greater trust in them to make major software development decisions, or supporting them with the right personnel to reach their goals."

When asked about keeping staff motivated, 78% of CTOs highlighted the importance of transparency and honesty in team communication. While 78%, the same proportion, also emphasised the need to empower employees to make decisions about their work.

"A CTO is tasked with balancing many moving parts across the business," added Dziergwa. "A great CTO has the knowledge and ability to drive organisational growth with the aid of technology and possesses the interpersonal skills to motivate teams of technology professionals. This might seem like a long list of requirements, but our research has shown that reaching this C-suite position could be a much faster process than many think."

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