"Keep My Job Safe List" for CTOs #txcto #edtech

Have you asked your supervisor, “What am I not doing that will get me fired because I missed it?” Put another way, what should you do to ensure you keep the stakeholders happy?

In case you’re wondering, that’s the Big Boss in a black cape and that’s the CTO
with a force-choke hold on his throat.

One of the fun questions I’ve run across in my readings about Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) includes one I hadn’t ever anticipated:

“Think it through by analogy. The CFO is not responsible for making revenue every quarter, but if there is a big surprise, fire him. 

The CTO is not responsible for delivering products every quarter, but if you miss the internet or a similar technical inflection point, fire him.” 

Indeed, I have often thought that asking what you should get fired for in a job is a great way to clarify your thinking about what is really important. Sometimes we spend a lot of time working on the wrong problems.

The greatest leverage is when the project is in its earliest phases, when we are deciding on architectures in the context of market requirements and when technology choices are being made. This is where you should see the CTO. Once there is a large marching army of engineers heading off in some direction, it is pretty difficult and expensive to make changes. Much better to get things sorted out early. It is what I call, “Get ‘em while they’re young.”

Stuff to Get Fired About

  1. Misrepresenting a positive move for the organization as something not technically feasible. CTO failed to anticipate the next big thing or passed it off as something evil to leadership when other districts are clearly embracing it. 
    • Example: Failing to implement GoogleApps for Education (GAFE). Why? Well, duh, it’s a cost-effective way to save your organization money for email, calendaring, etc. More importantly, it’s provides everyone in the organization with a suite of tools.
    • Example: Telling everyone that GAFE is a boondoggle, and would actually cost too much because of email archiving.
  2. “What? We wanted to use all the Chromebooks but there are only 3 wireless access points in the building!” Failing to lay the infrastructure IN ADVANCE of the next big thing.
    • Example: New technology gets purchased and distributed to campuses before an electrical capacity for buildings is done. When everyone plugs-in their new technology, the power goes out. Oops.
    • Example: New technology gets purchased and distributed to staff, but when they all try to connect to the network, the District doesn’t have enough bandwidth to access the Web. Oops.
  3. “You won’t get fired implementing Cisco!” CTO continues to advocate for technology that was helpful in the 20th Century.
  4. Pandering to the Superintendent. “Whatever you say, Super!” to pander to the Superintendent without making him/her aware of the issues. 
    • Example: CTO tells the Technology team that he will stop the willy-nilly purchase of technologies that lack proper vetting (e.g. automated account management, easy device management, compatibility with district network) but then secretly signs-off on the approval of the technologies.
    • Example: Bringing in faux external evaluators to assess the organizational structure, and then using the resulting fictional document–where false data was submitted–to cut the salaries of Tech Team members s/he doesn’t like, or worse, have the consultants revise the plan to make current failed practices look successful.
  5. The CTO buys the latest and greatest for select staff, hands out equipment as to win favor, but never develops a plan to ensure equity for the most important stakeholders–teachers and students.
    • Example: CTO purchases technology (e.g. netbooks, iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, brain-chips) for deployment but doesn’t work with stakeholders to develop a deployment plan. Technology arrives at campuses and people look at each other and then take it home for their home entertainment system.
  6. The CTO realizes that change is inevitable and does his best to slow it down by micro-managing and not responding to direct reports.
    • Example: When BYOD is brought up, the CTO finds ways to change the conversation because his cronies don’t want to mess with creating a separate, guest wireless network or worry about building up the infrastructure.
    • Example: When the end-users want to bring in iPads to meet critical needs for special education children (watch this video and make sure to have tissue handy), the CTO fails to organize his Tech Team to put together a deployment plan…or, alternatively, deploys iPads with no thought as mobile device management.
    • Example: Although differentiated content filtering is possible, the CTO refuses to fund purchase of less expensive solutions that provide finer-grained control over content filtering because YouTube should continue to be blocked (that way, the CTO doesn’t have to meet with the Community).
Time for a change…what is your keep my job safe list?

Special thanks to TexasISD.com for featuring this blog entry on their web site!


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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