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The Balancing Act of the CTO

As a CTO, your journey is a thrilling rollercoaster of challenges and triumphs. In this article, I want to delve into one of the most intricate challenges that CTOs in small startups face – the delicate balancing act between day-to-day execution and visionary thinking.

Daily grind

In the trenches of a growing startup, the CTO role is multifaceted. It involves diving headfirst into the daily grind, where we're not just steering the ship but also rowing alongside the crew.

From supervising sprints to ensuring our product goals are met, it's a constant whirlwind. One moment, you may find yourself deep in code, solving technical challenges alongside your engineering team. The next, you're at the forefront of product meetings, sprint planning sessions, and other day-to-day discussions.

It's about juggling responsibilities, ensuring alignment between the technical team's efforts and the overall product goals, and ensuring everyone is moving in the right direction. And it's so easy to get sucked into the daily grind as you constantly feel that you block others from moving forward and hitting their goals.

Visionary Role

Yet, being a CTO isn't just about managing the present; it's also about charting the future. A visionary CTO sets the course for innovation, growth, and long-term success. While we're knee-deep in code and project management, our eyes must always be on the horizon.

Our ability to see beyond the immediate tasks and envision what's next is what drives our company's evolution. It's about defining the roadmap, exploring new ventures, validating ideas, prototyping, and even just thinking about what will take us from where we are today to where we aspire to be tomorrow.

Balancing Act

The true challenge lies in striking the right balance between the daily grind and the visionary role. It's a tightrope walk, where missteps in either direction can lead to challenges. How do we ensure that the urgent doesn't overshadow the important? It's a skill that evolves over time, but I'll do my best to share my insights.

One critical insight I've gained through my journey is that this balance often comes in cycles. There are moments when the day-to-day requires your utmost attention. Everything demands immediate involvement, and it's easy to feel you're holding it all together. However, it's essential to recognize that this intensity is temporary.

There are also periods when the day-to-day is not so pressing. During these moments, you can carve out more time to think about the future, be visionary, and explore new ideas. Setting aside dedicated focus time for this purpose can be highly effective. Make it clear to yourself and your team that your primary focus is on long-term strategy, innovation, and experimentation during these blocks of time. Put it on your calendar, even blocks of 3-4 hours!

But, as in any startup, unexpected issues can arise, and it's crucial to acknowledge that they might override your planned focus time. Flexibility is key. Be ready to pivot back to the day-to-day when necessary, but also ensure that your commitment to future thinking remains intact.

Lastly, increasing awareness among your partners and team members about this balancing act is vital. Let them know that both the daily grind and visionary thinking are integral to achieving your goals. Encourage empathy within the team, fostering an understanding that your role encompasses these dual responsibilities. When everyone is on the same page, it becomes easier to navigate the balancing act.


In conclusion, being a CTO requires seamlessly switching between day-to-day execution and visionary thinking. It's a balance that's worth striving for because innovation thrives within this balance.

So, as you navigate your own challenges, remember that it's the daily grind that fuels the visionary. It's in the chaos of today that the dreams of tomorrow are forged.

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