Andy Skipper is a great proponent of self-development for leaders. He created a CTO mentoring community called CTO Craft which gathers over 1100 CTOs where people share their knowledge about leading teams, leadership, high performance and more. I decided to talk with him and ask about the origins of the community as well as future plans.
Damian: Hello Andy, how are you?
Andy: Good morning Damian, I’m fine,how are you?
Damian: Fine. Thank you for joining me today, as I am super excited to have you here. I’ve been watching closely your group and attending your webinars along with other hundreds of people.
Same as you, I also work with CTOs, as we are an external tech partner for companies mainly from the UK and Nordics. I was wondering if we can share some hints and tips about the tech community you’ve created. Recently, I have launched an ebook called “Top 6 CTO Challenges”. It was based on conversations with CTOs from my LinkedIn network and I must say it was quite successful as 800 people downloaded it so far. I would love to ask you a few questions about your initiative (CTO Craft) to tell people more about it.
Damian: The first question will be about CTO Craft- when did your CTO community start and what was the origin of that group? Was it just your idea or were there more people involved?
Andy: It came from me and a group of CTO coaches in London wanting there to be a free resource for new and growing technology leaders. It started as a small group and now it has expanded beyond that, and it is not only limited to London any longer. We have about 1100 people involved in our Slack community of which 50% are London based, and the rest come from various parts of the globe. We’ve got people from LA, Chile, China, Australia, everywhere, really. We run mentoring groups and one to one coaching. We have many emerging leaders who are in a CTO role for the first time, and most of them have engineering backgrounds. They have made their way from coding to people leading positions.
Damian: The main idea was to increase their soft skills, leadership skills, or some technical skills? I am asking, because from my experience, CTOs are especially interested in the two areas of improvement. One of which are technical skills, on the other hand, there are people’s skills – like management, which can be even more challenging for them.
Andy: CTO Craft is primarily focused on the area of soft skills where most people struggle with problems such as leading, hiring, conflict resolution or communication. We have practical stuff like how to build a career ladder, how to manage a cloud migration, or how to choose a vendor – that type of thing. There is also a lot of self-management content, like dealing with stress, preventing burnout, maintaining productivity, or managing your time.
Damian: Who creates this content? Is it a peer to peer content or do you make content on your own?
Andy: Both, to be honest. We do have experts who help write blog posts and appear in events. Discussions within the community are conducted on a peer to peer basis, whereas coaching has more “traditional approach”, through one to one conversations.
Damian: Who is your perfect persona to join your group? Is it a newbie who just wants to start, or a senior who would like to share his knowledge?
Andy: It is pretty broad, but typical titles include CTO, VP of Engineering, Head of Development, Engineering Director. We do have people who are still hands-on engineers, who joined their companies as co-founders and have others who have joined later as CTOs. We don’t offer much for people who work on their own. We are a perfect community for people who have leadership responsibility.
Damian: I have a question that deals with the current situation. Do you see a growing number of issues related to the COVID situation? For example, connected with leadership in these times? I know that some of CTOs used to work remotely but I am pretty sure that some of them like those with their kids behind, can have a difficult time.
Andy: We have people in our community who have kinds. So, they are involved in parenting, homeschooling which can be difficult for them when they have to align it with their professional duties. We also have members who work for organizations that were not set up for remote working until now – that makes things pretty stressful. A lot of the companies for which our CTOs work, are struggling financially as some of them are from the airline or leisure industries.
Damian: I must say that I enjoyed the webinar about how a CTO should look for the job or even write a CV. I wanted to ask what is the biggest pain for the CTO in you opinion?
Andy: I think that one of the biggest problems is that a lot of companies are having to furlough and make redundancies. Some of our members have been made redundant, others had to make redundancies which is not fun during normal times and now is even tougher.
Damian: What are the benefits of your group and how to join it? I know that you have some free content, how about the rest?
Andy: The core of the CTO Craft is our free Slack community. You can join it by going to the CTO community web page and signing up. We are only taking people who are leading teams of technologists so it is from engineering directors upwards. We also run mentoring groups with peer support for group problem-solving, peer feedback and input. There is the option of one to one CTO coaching sessions as well. You can find more information on CTO Craft’s website.
Damian: Here goes my last question: What is your plan for the future?
Andy: We started by the end of 2017 and now we have 1100 members. Our community is growing rapidly so we are planning for more growth, more events and content, and spreading the word as far as we can.
Damian: Wow, that is impressive, I wish you luck and keep doing good work. Thank you for this inspiring talk!
Andy: Thank you too, stay safe!