5 hard truths every fractional CTO needs to face

By Tom Sturge on 20 February, 2023

4 min read

Being a fractional CTO is a demanding role that requires finesse in handling multiple responsibilities. As a leader, you must oversee the technology strategy for several companies, manage teams of developers and engineers, and ensure projects get completed within the given time frame and budget. This position requires a combination of technical expertise, business acumen, and leadership skills, making it both challenging and rewarding.

As a fractional CTO, it's essential to acknowledge some of the harsh realities of the job. This article will delve into five truths and provide helpful tips on navigating them. Remember, with the right mindset and preparation; you will be able to tackle any challenge that comes your way.

1. You can only be an expert in some things.

As a fractional CTO, your role is to deeply understand technology across a wide range of domains. However, it's only possible to be an expert in some things. You'll need to rely on your team members and external experts to fill in the gaps in your knowledge.

Don't be afraid to admit when you don't know something, and don't be scared to ask for help. The best CTOs know how to leverage the strengths of their team members and external partners to achieve their goals.

2. You won't always have all the answers.

No matter how hard you try, there will always be problems you can't solve. Sometimes, you'll encounter situations outside of your expertise; sometimes, you'll be dealing with an issue that could be more solvable.

In these situations, focusing on what you can control is essential. Identify the root cause of the problem and work to mitigate the impact. Communicate transparently with stakeholders, and be clear about what you can and can't do.

3. You will have to make tough decisions.

As a fractional CTO, you're responsible for making tough decisions that impact the entire organisation. Not everyone will be happy with these decisions, and that's okay.

Focus on making decisions that are in the organisation's best interest as a whole, and communicate these decisions clearly and transparently. Don't be swayed by the loudest voices in the room; be bold and make unpopular decisions if they're the right ones.

4. You must recognise the business side of things.

As a technology leader, it's easy to get caught up in the technical details and lose sight of the bigger picture. However, it's important to remember that technology is ultimately a means to an end.

You must align with the organisation's business objectives, and you can communicate the value of technology in terms that business stakeholders can understand to build credibility and influence within the organisation.

5. You can't avoid failure.

No matter how experienced you are, failure is inevitable. You'll make mistakes, and projects will fail. However, failure is also an opportunity to learn and grow.

Embrace failure as a learning opportunity and encourage your team members to do the same. Celebrate successes, but also celebrate the failures that lead to growth and development.

As a fractional CTO, you must navigate a complex and ever-changing technology landscape. While this role can be challenging, it's also enriching. To thrive, facing and overcoming any challenges that may arise is crucial. By doing so, you'll be able to hone your skills and become a more effective leader in the tech industry. Ultimately, this will benefit not only you but your entire organisation as well. Keep pushing yourself, and you'll be amazed at what you can achieve as a fractional CTO.