A day in the life of the CTO
February 25, 2019 09:11
Firstly, a disclaimer, this article is not aimed at describing what a CTO does, this would be foolhardy given that it varies from company to company. What I intend to do is share with you what ‘this’ CTO does in the small to medium enterprise that is McKenzie Intelligence.
0720 – (Buzz) Woken up by email.
My Monday usually begins with an early morning email from Forbes (CEO) enlightening me on the new direction that the company is going to take following a chance meeting with a guy in a London wine bar on Friday night:
“We should be focusing on sharks with laser beams, it’s about to get big” followed by “can you prepare a shark laser beam integration presentation for this afternoon….you do know about sharks don’t you?” and ending with “I think we need to buy our own sharks!”
Joking aside, as the name suggests one of my primary roles is to stay at the leading-edge of current and future technology, and more importantly, differentiating between technology that could disrupt our domain (geospatial Intelligence/Insurtech) and technology that will fade away. Then defining a strategy of how the disruptive technology will enable us to do our job faster, better, and cheaper. I also have to keep one eye on technology that is disrupting other domains to identify if we could re-engineer it to our problem sets.
0800 – Jog to the Office, healthy body healthy mind (13 metres - house to Garden Office)
I’m one of those lucky few who have a garden path as my daily commute, and although I have discovered that there is such a thing as cabin fever, it provides flexibility and what I like to call my own little technology hub. It provides a home for my paper library of tech books and more gadgets than any normal human should possess (well, at least according to my wife). Having an environment that enables research helps me to do just that and I spend a portion of everyday reading about future technology.
0830 - Task management
In all smaller companies many roles are spread around the limited manpower, one of those that sits with me is the management of tasking, not only for scoping the time and manpower, and ‘putting troops to task’, but also monitoring through to completion. I’m lucky in that the manpower I work alongside, all have all been in the company for a while and know both their respective roles and current business processes. This has the upside that they can be trusted to handle quickfire proposals for familiar tasking (thanks Stu, Oz), but also the downside that as the business begins to scale up the lower decks can often creak which brings a whole new acronym landscape!
0910 – “Sorry Dave I can’t do that!” HAL, 2001 Space Odyssey
Checking in with the Development Team is a large part of my job. After all, they are tasked with creating our product by exploiting the very technology that I’m trying to ensure is implemented based upon the company’s detailed product roadmap. As with the Analysis Team, I’m also blessed with a development team who, despite my lack of facial hair, have taken my guidance (and provided their own) and fused it with their own knowledge to create a product that I consider to be a leader in its class.
1100 - Briefing Stakeholders
Communication is key in all aspects of life, but never more so than when you have to take a product that is not only inherently complex in its own right, but also has complexity at every interface, and explain it to key stakeholders. MIS-Intel is one such technology. As CTO I’m the tech evangelist that must preach the technological wonders of our product, so it’s no surprise that I spend a lot of my time creating sermons and standing at my pulpit.
1330 – Client Training
With the rapid pace of technological change and the increasing adoption of MIS-Intel, there is a continued requirement to train clients on how best to utilize the functionality of our platform. Believe it or not delivering training is something that I enjoy, it provides me with a chance to interact with the most important piece of my jigsaw, the User. This particular role includes pulling together bespoke training packages that reflects the latest functionality on the portal, as well as giving a tantalizing glimpse into future developments. It also enables me to wear my requirements engineering hat to gather requirements through informal questioning during the sessions.
1430 – Technical Advice to Projects
Another key element of my role is providing technical advice on the approaches to be taken on geospatial analysis and Imagery exploitation projects. A good example of this is the creation of the methodology which involved the use of spectral signature and machine learning algorithms to exploit multispectral imagery for a project to better understand mass agricultural health in multiple regions around the world concurrently. Having a technical background is obviously key for any CTO, but having an inquisitive mind, a thirst for knowledge, and a YouTube account also helps.
1500 - Technical input into Larger Proposals
As the lead on all thing technical within McKenzie Intelligence, I have to use my expertise and experience, and of course that of the team, to look at often ill-defined problems and design an innovative solution. This not only involves my knowledge of all things geospatial, but also of time, cost, and quality issues more associated with project management. I have to have a deep understanding of what it will take to solve a particular problem, whether that includes understanding the technology, the data, or when to find commercial of the shelf solutions that solve the problem.
1800 - Hurricane Season
So finally there is the small issue of the North American hurricane season. As an Insurtech company I lead the teams monitoring of, and reaction to, hurricane activities (and other NATCATs) around the world. This involves ensuring working practices have been adapted to take into account the lessons identified from the previous season, as well as researching and developing new technology, automated data feeds, and computer led analysis processes to continually refine our offering. This is without doubt the busiest time of the year and relies heavily on the company culture of getting the job done no matter what (sleep is overrated).
1830 - Home James.
I find that in a world surrounded by innovative technology it is hard not to have your job as your hobby. This often means that I will spend the evening reading about some IoT protocol or watching a TED talk on Blockchain. I’m sure that you are probably thinking that this is sad but then the words of Bill Gates pass through my mind ‘be kind to geeks because one day you will work for one!”, better to be a bit of a geek.
Alfie Conetta, Chief Technical Officer
Published on February 25, 2019 09:11