How I went from an Android developer to CTO of a Vietnamese e-commerce

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I learned a few lessons while I was CTO at Loship, Vietnam’s one-time delivery e-commerce startup founded in 2017. Some of them learned the hard way, by making mistakes. The leap from an Android developer to a CTO is as nerve-wracking as it is ambitious in terms of responsibility.

For a long time I have been thinking about sharing my ideas, and in this article I will outline some of the greatest experiences I have learned along the way.

Lesson # 1: A CTO is a leadership role, not a leadership role

Leadership is the foundation of the skills required to become a CTO. However, a CTO is more than just that. You need to manage your team, but not micro-manage them; Use your time and energy to inspire them to get behind your vision and do their job.

Look at ways you can help your team grow both with their code and professionally.

You can also establish a mentoring culture by collaborating senior and novice engineers for couple programming. At Loship, couple programming is our culture and something we have been consistent around since day one.

It allows for better transfer of skills as junior developers can learn and pick up techniques from more experienced team members.

It is also important to establish a trusting relationship with your team members. Make your work relationship more than just work, where we are free to share our thoughts, personal feelings, and even life problems we face.

Tell employees your name, not your title. Let your employees know that you are a person first and a leader next.

Also read: For gamers by gamers: How Razer incorporates its understanding of user behavior into product development

Lesson # 2: Speed ​​Matters

In the startup world, speed is probably the most important asset. I believe that when we are small, we are forced to work twice as hard and do it twice as fast, to walk a distance twice as long. All other things being equal, the fastest player on the market will win.

At Loship, we use Agile methodology in product development with the mentality “move fast and break things”. Most of the time, our scrum sprints are a week long as our developers are used to fast-paced work and agile environments. A week of sprinting opens the door to learning more in less time.

In this way, the work is reviewed quickly and teams receive frequent feedback to improve their task results. Teams can prioritize more efficiently as the work is divided into the smallest possible chunks.

I am deeply driven by the belief that fast, good enough solutions are far better than slow-perfect and radically better than no solutions at all. Finished is better than perfect. The best is the enemy of the good.

Lesson # 3: It is acceptable for a CTO to code

I’m probably in the minority, but I think any CTO should have the ability to code. I still code and program daily and I enjoy doing this aspect of the work. But I force myself to code differently, much faster and more efficiently than before.

And I take a broader perspective when I write each line of code, as it will directly affect an entire business, not just a few small features. There’s a saying I like: ‘Every line you code as a CTO is a line of code your team does not understand.’ – M. Blankeskab.

Also read: As Glint’s CTO, this is what I want you to know about building an engineering team in Southeast Asia

It is undoubtedly true that the CTO has a wider range of responsibilities; However, I believe that competent CTOs should continue to code as long as they continue to keep pace with their other responsibilities.

Languages ​​and tools are constantly changing, and being hands-on in code from time to time is a must-have to keep up with the latest and greatest.

Being hands-on also puts a CTO in the place of developers to see first hand what works and what doesn’t, and then guide them.

Lesson # 4: Do not make technology flashy

Early in my career, I realized that technology serves human lives. Developers live to solve problems in real life and create values ​​that help improve society.

Innovation does not have to be flashy to have a significant impact. If your flashy innovation efforts do not quickly turn into customer-satisfied, problem-solving products, your innovation will not work properly.

So stay grounded, reduce glamor and put technology in the most natural position possible. That is not to say that flashy never works, nor that people and companies should not dream big. We need that too. But sometimes it is the ugly and boring things that can make a profound difference in our lives.

Lesson # 5: Learning is an endless journey

Knowledge is power, and knowledge is what got you to where you are now – and where you want to be in the future. In the tech world, all your knowledge is old news within two to four years, so be sure to be at the forefront of new trends and technologies.

I always encourage all my team members to stay up to date with technology news every day to understand how the technology world out there is moving. This is how we can develop a growth mindset.

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Sign up for newsletters, read blogs, follow influencers, attend conferences, etc. It is necessary to stay open and absorb as much information as possible to be at the forefront of the curve.

Many other lessons have been learned, but these are the biggest ones I have understood over the years, all part of being a CTO in a startup.

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