How to Succeed in the CTO Role, According to Navenio’s CTO
By Nick Ismail
Information Age speaks to Niki Trigoni, CTO at Navenio, about what qualities are needed to make the CTO role a success.
Niki Trigoni (centre) won the CTO of the Year award at Information Age’s Women in IT London 2020.
The CTO role is one of the most challenging in business, a mixture of technical excellence and now, strategic thinking is needed to succeed in the position.
But, what does this mean? How can the technical CTO evolve and ultimately, succeed in their role?
From research to solving real-world problems
Unlike many CTOs who are brought into organisations, Trigoni’s research at the University of Oxford lead to the genesis of her company, Navenio — which utilises smartphone sensors to create location-based services for indoor applications, similar to GPS on the outside.
“We are building products that can transform how people operate in the workplace,” she explains. “Since this geo-location technology has matured, the applications for indoor services have increased dramatically.”
This maturation of the technology is what caused Trigoni to take a broader role in the technical development of Navenio and become its CTO.
The right team
According to Trigoni, the most important thing for any CTO is to have the right team around you and the ability to motivate that team.
“A good CTO is nothing without their team, they need people that can design and develop solutions and products — diversity of talent is also very important,” she says.
The state of the art
Other than the necessity of a strong team, any successful CTO needs to keep track of the state of the art [technology] and make sure they stay of ahead of it, whether that’s innovations in AI or location-based technologies.
This is something Trigoni has always been very comfortable with, based on her research career, because she always had to understand and push the boundaries of the state of the art.
“I am constantly reading about new technology and new approaches, while trying to encourage those in my team to do the same,” she explains.
Stubborn, tenacious, and passionate
In terms of personality traits, a good CTO should be “stubborn and have the tenacity to break down barriers — when things are difficult, persevere,” continues Trigoni.
“I’ve been fortunate, because I’ve had huge support from my family and company, but things weren’t always very smooth when setting up Navenio, when we had to take pieces of code from my research and move them into the real world,” she added.
Someone in a CTO role must also have passion. Even when there are challenges “if you are really passionate about what you’re doing then it becomes easier — you should aim high and at the same time, believe.
“With the right passion and the right support, CTOs can help their company’s achieve their business goals,” advises Trigoni.
Succeeding in the CTO role
It’s all about the team and the way to succeed in the CTO role comes down to interpersonal skills.
“You need to be able to work with other people, inspire them and make them focus on the right things at the right time,” she suggests.
The CTO role is incredibly multi-faceted and at times they are drawn in many directions, whether that’s speaking to investors or designing products. So, the ability to delegate and trust in the team is of vital importance and necessary for success in the role.
Looking for talent
There is a huge lack of talent in IT and engineering, both male and female (and across other spectrums), in every industry.
“The complaint everybody has is there’s not enough talent. And so for, for me, talent doesn’t have a gender, it doesn’t have a race or cultural background,” explains Trigoni.
“We try to attract talent, wherever we find it, in whatever walk of life.”
This attitude is important in the technology industry, especially, because diversity in gender, background, race or education means that individuals will have different ways of working, different ways of designing and building systems, and different ways of overcoming difficulties and seeing opportunities.
“You need brains that think differently, to build products in ways that are desirable for the market. It’s hard to overstate how important diversity is for creativity and innovation,” adds Trigoni.