A CTO should know what’s going on in every startup function – An interview with our CTO, Kristo Mägi

Kristo, our CTO, definitely wears a lot of hats, and I'm not talking about the piece of clothing. We caught up with him to talk tech, marketing and how he navigates his role as the CTO of Deekit!

Kristo Magi is the kind of guy who wears many hats. He’s always been this way. He started out as early employee at Skype, working as an Infrastructure Architect and then transitioned to his current role as Co-founder/CTO of a venture backed startup. When he’s not working out which payment provider we should use or taking care of our security/back-end, helping put together resources, like our ultimate list of front-end development tools.

His natural curiosity has led him to push Deekit’s marketing function forward in lately and I recently caught up with him. We discuss his role within a growing startup team and how he manages the overlap with other areas of the business.

Blake:

Hey Kristo, I appreciate you taking time out of your day! We have a close-knit team at Deekit and you’re actively involved in various parts of the business. Do you think it’s important for a CTO to understand other areas of their startup other than the technology-focused stuff?

Kristo:

So the short answer is yes. As a lead role in any business, it’s crucial to understand all functions. In a role like this, it’s important that you offer support across marketing, design, customer service, it honestly doesn’t matter what it is! The tech is everywhere. If you as a CTO don’t understand the needs across the business, then you will potentially be making bad tech decisions too.

 

 

Blake:

By supporting the business, do you mean strategically or in a hands-on sense?

Kristo:

In a startup environment, everyone should be hands on. Personally, I enjoy working this way anyway. I love to understand the challenges across the business and actively solving any issues that arise. By doing this, we succeed in our overall goal, which is to go faster.

Blake:

Do you have to be a good mediator as a CTO?

Kristo:

It varies from business to business. In a startup. then of course. things are often smaller and it’s much easier for the business to communicate between different fields. When you get bigger though, like we were in my previous role at Skype, you have to act as a bit more of a translator. It’s easy for engineers to be thinking from an engineering point of view. As a CTO it’s your job to link X to Y and understand the overall picture.

Blake:

Would you say the gap between marketing and engineering, for example has become smaller?

Kristo:

As a developer, the only thing you want to do is develop the product more. Equally, a marketer is also trying to develop that product, but in a different way. So many companies still make a distinction based on functions and not on product, which I think is a misjudgment when you’re growing. Now it’s easier than ever to build out your understanding with workshops, seminars, and conferences. So especially for technical people working in startups, they are now understanding that they need to get some basics of other fields to be successful. It’s all about awareness.

Blake:

Is this a generational thing?

Kristo:

People entering the workforce straight from University or millennials are much less prone to put themselves into a category. They’re a lot more flexible. So I’d say it definitely has an impact.

Blake:

With most startups being technology based, do you think engineering always leads other areas of the business?

Kristo:

This is totally dependent on the size of the business in my opinion. I’ve seen both sides of this. At Skype for we had a lot more time to experiment, try new things and build something perfect. At Deekit we are pushing forward at a very fast pace and when you try and do everything perfectly, things can take too long.

So for us, we’re trying to not let the engineering always lead what we do. We’re somewhere in the middle right now, we’re much more focused on our users and we always try base our progression on what they want. As smart as we think we are, we are never smarter than the whole world…

If you’d like to keep up to date with Kristo, check him out on Twitter! Expect more interviews very soon, thanks again Kristo.

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