Klaus Breyer Tech Leadership, Product Delivery & Startup Strategy.

Amazing CTO, Stephan Schmidt, 2024

Most of the time, I read books to reflect on certain topics related to my everyday obligations rather than to learn something new.

In this regard, I appreciate the style of Stephan Schmidt’s Amazing CTO book. It is a short book with many good thoughts on the whole spectrum of a CTO’s job, all general enough to immediately think about how those apply to one’s situation - basically like a meditation.

While I can list some key takeaways that created an “Aha” moment for me and the fact that there are some helpful mental models and templates towards the end of the book, using the book for reflection is the most important thing.

But, well, here are my key takeaways from the book:

  1. Hard vs. Soft Skills: Hard skills get you the job, but soft skills make you excel.
  2. Effective 1-on-1s: These are not for status updates. Focus on views, opinions, and people development. Prepare decisions and understand where each team member wants to go.
  3. Accountability: Hold juniors accountable for tasks and seniors for metrics. This ensures clarity in delegation and expectations.
  4. Set Up for Success: Always look to set people up for success. Determine what they need to succeed, whether it’s knowledge, tools, or introductions.
  5. Self-Validation: In job interviews, ask candidates how they validate themselves. This reveals their self-awareness and growth mindset.
  6. CTO vs. CIO: A CTO’s role differs from a CIO’s. Focus on technology strategy rather than IT operations.
  7. Leadership: Good leaders show a bright future and a strategy to get there. Making people shine is a core aspect of leadership.
  8. Tech Selection: Avoid a tech zoo in small companies. In finance sheets, distinguish maintenance costs from feature development costs.
  9. Personal Brand: Develop and understand your personal brand, both internally and externally.
  10. Effective Delegation: Delegate tasks to juniors, features to developers, projects to seniors, and goals to leads.
  11. Job Interviews: Ask questions that allow for good answers on both sides.