Boulder CTO January Lunch with Sanjiv Bhargava
The Boulder CTO Lunch meets once a month with a guest speaker and covers topics and questions that startup CTOs should find interesting. This month, the group had Sanjiv Bhargava from StillSecure come talk with our group. Before becoming VP of product development at StillSecure, Sanjiv was VP of Technology at Symantec Corporation. Sanjiv was also involved in some startups that failed and others that succeeded (selling a consulting company he founded). I will share highlights of the discussion, but since this was a open, free-formed discussion, I am sure I couldn’t capture everything and not all my notes are completely accurate.
Remote vs. Local employees
Sanjiv has worked with geographically dispersed teams in the past, but recommends working with everyone under the same roof if possible. He said that for small teams it is very helpful, as you build teams you need to build relationships.
“One of the best parts of starting a company is you get to create the company culture”
A team is a reflection of the leader, or you can switch it around, a leader is a reflection of a team because the leader builds that team.
The first hire to a small team has a huge impact on corporate culture, which can be good, but be aware of it.
What makes a good team?
* getting the right team chemistry
* sometimes make a compromise on technical knowledge but not on culture and team chemistry.
As a small startup, you don’t have time for team building exercises, if you need those at this level you have the wrong people in the company
The corporate culture is set by who you are. For example, if your office has a ping pong table and you never play ping pong that sets a culture to never play – focus on work. To play or never play: either is OK, but your actions as a leader set it.
Have an open dialog with a problem employee to figure out what is going on. Maybe things can be turned around.
In small startups you need to cut your losses on employees fast and early.
There is never an easy or easier time to get rid of someone.
Think of the other employees you have. Good startup employees know the bad hire isn’t working out, and they don’t like having to carry their dead weight.
“Sometimes it would take you 2 hours to do something, or it take 1 hour of training and 4 hours for the new employee the first time. You have to take the trade off.”
Everyone chimed in on evaluations from the group, some of the thoughts are below.
* Every 6 weeks have a quick meeting. “Here is what you did awesome, here is what you could improve”
* Discuss as part of a team. What can I change? What can we improve on as a team? Have them evaluate you as a leader as well.
* A quick weekly meeting. What is not going right? What is going well? Go over what goals were met from the previous week. Have a meeting to set goals for the week and the year.
* It isn’t about management recognition, it is about team recognition. Group support and group recognition.
* Don’t have meetings. Do it on the fly, why wait to tell someone something is awesome or something wasn’t up to par?
The CTOs Role
* Ask ten different people what is the role of a CTO and you will get ten different answers.
* The CTO role is decided by what fits the company.
* It is a role that is a combination of business and technology.
* Two types of visionary CTOs, “How do I grow the business?”, or “How do I scale the technology or broaden the feature set?”
* One of the biggest mistakes we make is we try to pigeon hole people into boxes and defined roles.
Thanks everyone for attending our January CTO lunch. Thanks to Sanjiv for helping lead a great discussion. Also, thanks as always for TechStars for hosting our group. If you are interested in joining our CTO lunch shoot me an email dan devver.net, and I can get you on the email list.