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CTO Mentor Network – A virtual peer-to-peer network of CTOs (ctomentor.network)
252 points by jetsnoc on Oct 31, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 39 comments

Absolutely agree there is a need for this. The website is obviously an MVP, but some feedback from someone who is squarely in your target audience:

* I am hesitant to sign up for yet another source of email without more information about the list membership. Do you already have commitment to participate from experienced CTOs with a public presence (such as Camille Fournier who you cite as inspiration)? That would certainly be an incentive to join. If you can't name names, or if you're bootstrapping and don't yet have names to name, then at least some information about the experience level of folks on the list would help: e.g. "15% of our membership has held a technical leadership or management role for at least 2 years".

* You might consider gathering some demographic information along with email address, for example to help address the point above.

* I'd like to know more about the expected participation model. Your description hints at a Q&A model where people submit questions for open discussion by the list membership, but "mailing list" suggests (to me) more of a broadcast model where the list operators submit curated nuggets of wisdom. As founding members of the community, you'll set the tone; as moderators, even more so.

* As you're building a community, I'd want to see a code of conduct - both to know what to expect from the moderators, and to be sure that people from marginalised demographics would be comfortable participating.

* Related to (and probably covered in) a code of conduct, I'd be more inclined to join a community with an explicit ban on advertising ("15% discount on my product for list members"), recruiting ("my team is hiring an iPhone engineer") and market research ("would your company use this product?"). Not that I have a problem with those things, but I wouldn't currently sign up for something that exposed me to more of them.

Thank you for taking the time to post this. It's good advice from someone who is certainly our target audience.

A few answers/questions below:

* Bootstrapping with only a few names that are likely unrecognizable. I'm not the CTO of some random unicorn or vc-backed start-up. It's all the more reason I could use a peer-to-peer mentor. When I posted, there was only two of us who mutually agreed to it being a good idea. Myself? 4 years XP as a CTO and him 3 years 5 months. We started talking back and forth about small problems that plagued us or our teams. As we started helping each other, we realized there are likely many more like us who would benefit from having a peer to talk with.

* I am working on this now. Right now I am manually moderating the applications with only a name and email address to work from. Luckily, if you're a CTO/VP, you're name is pretty well published and indexed by LinkedIn, Google, etc. Lesson learned, if you build it they may come and you are likely going to be stuck with the repercussions of any decisions you hadn't made yet. I really should have asked for more on the form. At any rate, those that I cannot find easily I am replying back asking them to share more about themselves with me.

* Exactly right. At this time, it's a single email-list with a Q&A model and open discussion environment. You drive home a good point. Where I am a founding member and moderator, I need to clearly document our expectations, rules of the mailing list and a code of conduct as to what is appropriate to discuss and what is not. People do not want to be surprised when they are banned and a simple code of conduct can easily inform people and prevent them from posting something we don't want discussed or shared. Some of these may be legal minimums - for example, an anti-trust policy stating we cannot discuss pricing or fix the prices of our products especially where competitors may be on the same mailing list. I'm working on this now. As the group becomes larger, we likely need bylaws to further govern the organization.

* Great point regarding an explicit ban on advertising on the mailing list. That is definitely my intent.

Thank you again for taking the time to review and comment.

Thank you for taking the time to respond. I signed up :)

I used to go to CTO events in London, and found them of variable quality.

Firstly, most CTOs were surprised I came from a coding background. Even more were surprised to hear I committed code regularly.

Secondly, most of the discussion was about how to deal with tactical issues in a strategic framework that was almost impossible to relate to.

I don't CTO any more (went back to being a humble dev because it made me happier), but 90% of CTO-only lists/networking events/activities are ego exercises first, useful only by accident.

If somebody can fix that, ace. There is nothing here that suggests this will actually be practically useful.

Love the idea! Suggestion (I assume that the link is posted by the author or at least author will see this): include links to some some of the "required"/important reading/resources on the topic. It would be great to have materials that are confirmed to be good by the people that know what they're talking about. Maybe somebody here can suggest good resources about management are related topic for the aspiring/first-time CTOs? So far I've seen that this book is frequently recommended: https://www.amazon.com/High-Output-Management-Andrew-Grove/d...


Author here. Thanks! That's a great suggestion. As you can tell, right now the site and the mailing list is the most minimal of an implementation. We want to build a network, connect and mentor one another through the simplest and easiest mechanism possible - email. Once we have a medium-sized community with dozens of experts, we plan to add community managed content. Perhaps through a wiki?

I'll share the books and articles that have positively affected my career. These aren't tried and true and maybe dozens of people would disagree about their value but here they are, for what they are worth:


  - High output management (Grove, 1995)
  - Leading Up: How to Lead Your Boss So You Both Win (Useem)
  - It’s your Ship  (Abrashoff)
  - The score takes care of itself  (Walsh)
  - The Hard Thing About Hard Things  (Horowitz)
  - Where good ideas come from  (Johnson)
  - Extreme Ownership (Navy Seals) — (Willink)
  - Work Rules — (Bock)
  - 5 Dysfunctions of a team — (Lencioni)
  - Give and Take (Grant)
  - This is what impactful Engineering leadership looks like - http://firstround.com/review/this-is-what-impactful-engineering-leadership-looks-like/
  - Notes on startup engineering management for young bloods - http://www.elidedbranches.com/2015/10/notes-on-startup-engineering-management.html?m=1

  - Continuous Integration: Improving Software Quality and Reducing Risk (Duval, Matyas, Glover, 2007)
  - Continuous Delivery: Release Software Releases through Build, Test and Deployment Automation (Humble, Farley, 2010)
  - Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change, 2nd Edition (The XP Series) (Beck, Andres)
  - SICP: Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs
  - Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship
  - Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software
  - Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code
  - Refactoring Databases - Evolutionary Database Design (Ambler, Sadalage, 2006)

I highly recommend "The Phoenix Project" [0]. It's a great mix of entertainment and insight.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Phoenix_Project_(novel)

Or The Mythical Man Month ( https://www.amazon.com/Mythical-Man-Month-Software-Engineeri... )

Honestly I'm kinda surprised that didn't come up sooner...but only half-surprised.

This one should be read (and understood) by anyone who fancies him/herself a manager.

Of those management books, which have been the most impactful ones if I'm looking to just grab 2-4 now?

Mythical Man-Month is widely considered the #1 software engineering management book out there. I'd buy that one before anything else.

If I could only buy three books, it would be:

  - Peopleware
  - Mythical Man Month
  - High output management

This is a great idea, and was something I was searching for when I became VP of Engineering at PipelineDeals. Alongside ctomentor.network, there are other useful resources for engineering leaders as well:

* CTOschool in NYC (http://www.meetup.com/ctoschool/). They have over 2k members, monthly meetups and an active, relevant mailing list. I recommend joining for the mailing list alone.

* I live in Philly so I was tired of commuting to NYC for this meetup, so I co-founded CTOSchool in Philly (http://meetup.com/CTO-School-Philadelphia/). We have over 200 members now and growing.

Both groups focus on engineering leadership topics like hiring, onboarding, software delivery process, team structure, dealing with c-level team, etc. It really made a huge difference in my career.

I just copied this idea for bootstrappers: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12834961

Great idea, I've signed up.

Seems like it might be useful to ask for a website on your sign up form so that you have some idea what people are working on.

Thanks! I wanted to keep it simple for now as this is literally an MVP I cobbled together in 43 minutes. I will ask the people who signed up for details later on, to put them in the best-matching groups.

Awesome idea! Are you open to non-CTOs? For example, a software engineer turned investor? ^cough cough^

No, sorry! We're looking for CTOs that are working in the trenches with us to act as peer mentors and advisors.

Got it, thanks! FWIW my motivations are: 1) I work with many CTOs, so I have a good perspective across a lot of companies. 2) I'm always looking to learn more about what sorts of company-agnostic issues CTOs struggle with. If you ever change your mind, I'd love to join the group.

I've got your email from your blogs header. Will keep you in mind.

@jetsnoc: I totally respect wanting to keep this open to just startup CTOs, but if there's any wiggle room on this, you should totally let lpolovets in. :) As an investor in my company, he's helped me think through specific technical management issues, and is really eager to aggregate knowledge across his network.

It looks like anyone can subscribe.

Yup. But the site also says they weed out recruiters and vendors and the like, and I'm trying to figure out which side of the fence I'd be on. :)

For those in NYC, there's also https://www.meetup.com/ctoschool/ which has its own similar mailing list.

You've addressed a real need here. I've learned so much from talking to other technical founders about managing engineers and projects. I feel that this stuff isn't as well-documented as much as other parts of startup and engineering life, and I think this could be a big first step toward fixing that.

I was especially psyched to join as soon as I saw a reference to that fantastic Camille Fournier article. Her blog is one of the few incisive resources I've found on technical management at startups.

The form should post over https. Otherwise, great idea! I signed up.

So valuable. We have an in person CTO mentor network that's about 3 years old now with approx 70 members. Check it out 7CTOs.com

That's certainly one way to spend $375/month (http://7ctos.com/details/ ).

That is very cheap per month for good advice... just sayin.

Actually, they offer 2 plans [1]:

  - rocket @ $50/mo and;
  - voyage @ $375/mo.
[1] http://7ctos.com/join/

I signed up. It's worth a gamble from my Cloudflare email address. Worst case I end up with spam for Google's filters, best case interesting discussions.

(list co-moderator with jetsnoc here)

Well, it is currently a fully moderated list, and we will do our best to maintain the guidelines so hopefully you won't get any spam at all!

Right now we are checking sign ups before approving, so if someone signs up with an obfuscated email and we can't find their linked in page etc (so that we can check that they are really a CTO/engineering director and not a spammer) they won't even be added to the list unless we follow up directly and get a bit more information.

Are subscribers or submitters pre screened? Or both?

I signed up but got a white screen the first time. The second time it worked but I might be there two times :) Good idea anyway!

I remember the exCTO of etsy announcing something like this on Paul Fords podcast - is this that?

It is not, I will look into that. Maybe there are some synergies.

I signed up, but got no confirmation mail. Am I in?

Would love to see books, articles, lessons learned in the trenches from female CTOs.

What, like Solanas' SCRUM Manifesto?

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