The conference is organized by 7CTOs; a social enterprise focused on training CTOs as effective leaders in building businesses and technology team and providing them the necessary resources and tools to support a thriving community. After four years of flying around the country to host and promote grassroots CTO dinners, Etienne de Bruin founded 7CTOs with Michael Saul 2013. Michael is a seasoned executive coach with years of consulting software companies on leadership and organizational development. Combined with Etienne’s technical leadership and passion for building collaborative communities they make a fantastic founding team.
The 7CTOs experience includes:
- “The Innovative CTO Lab” — A day-long experience that invites CTOs from cities across the USA to share their thoughts and insights.
- Facilitated SEVENs forums — Seven hand-picked CTOs meet monthly to develop a tight-knit group that offers peer advice, builds trust and acknowledges common challenges.
- Lunch & Learns — All SEVENs forum members unite to enjoy stimulating presentations while breaking bread. It’s a group atmosphere where additional connections can be made.
I met Etienne back in 2012 when he was hosting a CTO dinner in Austin. I enjoyed spending time with fellow CTOs and was inspired to start Austin Tech Executives. After about four years, Etienne and I reconnected, and he brought me up to speed on 7CTOs. He encouraged me to attend the conference which was just weeks away. It was short notice, so I had to do some surgery on my calendar and quickly lock in some flights. After a few short weeks and a long flight through Denver, I arrived in San Diego late on Tuesday night.
The next morning I arrived at the Bahia Resort, and I promptly checked in. Etienne recognized me and introduced me to his co-founder Michael Saul. It was immediately clear to me that Etienne and the 7CTOs team were fostering a collaborative and inclusive environment. I felt at home.
I made my way through to the room where breakfast was served and began to introduce myself to some of the other attendees. After some engaging conversations with other CTOs, I heard Etienne announce that the opening keynote was about to begin.
Matt Aimonetti, Co-Founder & CTO of Splice, gave an engaging keynote titled “Your Identity Is They Key To A World Class Team”. One slide particularly caught the audience’s attention; Aimonetti made the comparison of a CTO and a Chef and informed us all that we were Chef Technology Officers. Matt focused the core of his keynote around what he believes to be the 3 OKRs for CTOs: Inspire, Respect, and Attract. All three components are building upon a foundation of Tech, Values, and Vision. I agree that you must clearly communicate your values and live those values.
After the keynote, we split into two tracks, leadership and technology. I found myself switching between tracks throughout the day while I noticed others seems to stick with one track. Although, I did spend more time in the leadership track. 🙂
Michael Saul, Co-Founder of 7CTOs, presented on emotional intelligence. Michael spoke of the work by Peter Salovey and Daniel Goldman and of phenomena like the amygdala hijack. Saul spent time explaining the belief pyramid and how our paradigms cloud our judgment. He also provided an interesting anecdote about Swiss watchmaking industry getting disrupted by Japanese companies using technology from their engineers that they refused to release. He ended with Goldman’s Emotional Intelligence model which says that you must start with self-awareness and self-management before moving to relationship management.
Although I didn’t attend the session I did learn about mob development which is a new concept to me. Mob programming is a software development approach where the whole team works on the same thing, at the same time, in the same space, and on the same computer. Both Woody Zuill & Matt Ferguson gave talks on Mob program, one more theoretical and the other practical.
Jeff Sippel shared some insights into dealing with technical debt. I found his talk unique in that he spent a small amount of time on his slides and quickly opened up the floor for the group to talk about challenges they are facing and solutions they have tried. During his slides, he did talk about the importance of not overbuilding when you start and taking the time to capture enough metrics to help you understand the health of the code base.
Artin Avanes, Director of Product Management at Snowflake Computing, walked us through SnowflakeDB, a cloud analytics database built on top of S3. He included a few use cases including Localytics. If you are looking for a more cost-effective columnar store, you might want to check out SnowflakeDB.
Krijn van der Raadt, CIO of GreatCall, spoke on the topic of Diligence in a session titled “Ace Your Technical Due Diligence.” Krijn has participated in numerous rounds of M&A tech diligence. Raadt summarized the process into two buckets: value assessment and liability assessment. On the liability side, while security and scalability are always a concern he has seen more companies have issues with poor open source license control. A service called Black Duck and others like it detect inappropriate use of open source. He reminded us that they are also evaluating you and your team.
Eric Weiss, Chief Technology Officer at Rock My World, Inc, gave a talk titled “Develop & Execute A Strategic Product Road Map”. Eric’s prioritization process was new to me. He uses Pirate Metrics as a rubric along with scaling factors selected based off of current business objectives to rank and score each feature idea. During Q&A, one attendee pointed out that he’s had success in creating hierarchical feature lists based on affinity groups. The grouping allowed him to prioritize the groups and then decide which components in that group would solve the current need.
The conference wrapped with a dinner cruise around the Mission Bay. This is way a fantastic way to end a small conference and aligns with Etienne’s vision to foster a collaborate community. The dinner allowed me to introduce myself to speakers and attendees that I missed earlier in the day and I had the opportunity to follow up with others who I had limited time with during the conference. It was a beautiful and relaxing way to finish the day.
I thoroughly enjoyed the conference. My only regret is that I didn’t find out soon enough to speak at the conference! I’m already twisting Etienne’s arm to participate in the next one.
If you are a CTO or hope to be one sometime, I encourage you to follow 7CTOs and consider joining or attending a 0111 CTO Conference. Etienne plans to have a conference every quarter in a different city.