So far, I’ve been posting some techy stuff here and there but being a CTO of a relatively small, Japan-based startup for about three years now, I thought I’d share some of my experiences along the way. But first off, a little bit of context: the company I work for, Alphaus Cloud is fairly small; about 10 engineers scattered across three countries, although at one point, we hit at around 35. It started around 2015, did three product pivots, three rounds of funding under two CEOs. At the moment, we operate within the Cloud FinOps (financial operations) segment of the market. As for myself, I am what you would consider an ‘accidental CTO’, a term I came across from CTO Academy, and a term I quite like: i.e. “someone who arrived in the CTO role ahead of schedule and is grappling with new challenges and very steep learning curve”. You can call it luck, although that would be relative, depending on one’s interpretation. Also, Japanese is not my native tongue, although I think I can hold my own in day-to-day conversations, nor is English, but I think I’m fairly proficient at it. And even though the company is trying to expand its operations outside of Japan, it is still inherently Japanese as far as business operations are concerned: the CEO/COO, sales, customer success teams are Japanese, investors are Japanese, and majority of our clients are also Japanese companies.
The CTO role in such a setup is quite unclear. Even though I had some experience leading tech teams in the past, nothing could have prepared me for this role. For one, my blunders are now more costly. My decisions now affect multiple teams, not just the engineering team. I have to undestand the business side of the company. I need to understand company financials. My ‘soft skills’ now matter more than ever; people, relationships, empathy, politics, the lot: they’re probably more difficult, and exhausting, than the technology part of my role. With that said though, overall, I’m enjoying it so far. There’s a certain charm to it that I can’t really explain; I thought I wouldn’t like it at first, me being an introvert and all, but the challenges are instructional and character-building enough that I welcome, sort of, the stress associated with it.
My goal in this series is to share some of my experiences from this side of the world in the hopes that it will help others gain some perspective. Mind you, this is the internet, and these are just my opinions, take them with a pinch of salt. And finally, I’m still not sure how to make this series more accessible from the blog. The ‘tags’ section is probably the faster way to search for it for now. Maybe I’ll provide a dedicated page in the future, who knows, we’ll see.
Alright, that’s it. See you in the next one.---
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