Amazing CTO
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Amazing CTO

The missing manual for managing

About the Book

Your hard skills landed you the management position, but it’s your soft and management skills that will drive your success. Numerous books cover architecture and processes, "Amazing CTO" stands out as the essential guide for managing effectively, authored by influential CTO Coach Stephan Schmidt.

The one book for CTOs and techmanagers. The CTO role is the most difficult role from the perspective of diverse skills and change. With AMAZING CTO the job gets much easier with proven advice and many ideas to succeed.

Example Rule

#14 Sets up people for success not failure

In my coaching one of the common mistakes is to hire someone or delegate something but then set up the person for failure. Happy for the help, and because the reason was to safe time, they do not invest enough time to make the employee successful. When I hear a coachee say, "That developer failed, he was a mis-hire" I say "Most probably you did set up the developer for failure." Set up for failure is not investing into a new hire. The Amazing CTO sets people up for success. She thinks, "What are all the things I can do to make the person successful?" Does the person need to know something? Do I need to communicate his role? Do I need to introduce him to someone? Does he need tools? Does he need a budget? Do I need to give authority? Setting up people for success leads to a happier work environment that gets results instead of a string of failures.

Excerpt Table of Contents

The book has nine parts of rules, here the example of one part:

“Hunting High And Low” . . . . . . . . . . . 66
Takes leaving not personally . . . . . . . . 67
Actively promotes . . . . . . . . . . . . . .68
Knows technology is a fashion industry . . . 69
Knows processes are swimming wings . . . . . 70
Knows processes are solved conflicts . . . . 71
Handles underperformers . . . . . . . . . . .72
Fires people herself . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
Is a professional . . . . . . . . . . . . . .74
Manages her boss . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
Leads the team . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76
Knows what she loves . . . . . . . . . . . . 77
Budgets expenses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
Does dailies when hiring . . . . . . . . . . 79
Is kind . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .80
Gives honest feedback . . . . . . . . . . . .81
Is creative . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .82
Encourages people to think . . . . . . . . . 83
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  • Categories

    • Executive Coaching
    • Software Engineering
    • Engineering Management
    • Startups
    • Leadership
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    Contact the Author(s)

About the Author

Stephan Schmidt
Stephan Schmidt

Stephan launched his tech career as a self-taught coder, mastering the art of programming as a kid in a department store back in 1981 with ambitions of creating video games. His passion for technology led him to university, where he delved into computer science, specializing in distributed systems and artificial intelligence, while also exploring the realms of philosophy. With the dawn of the internet era, Stephan became a pioneering coder and engineering manager for several startups.

His journey in the tech world expanded as he founded a venture capital-funded startup and tackled architecture, processes, and growth challenges in various fast-growing VC-backed companies. His roles have included engineering manager at ImmoScout24 and CTO of an eBay Inc. subsidiary. Following the successful sale of his wife’s startup, the couple relocated to the seaside, where Stephan embraced his role as a CTO coach, guiding technology leaders through the intricacies of their evolving roles.

Reader Testimonials

Oliver Wehrens
Oliver Wehrens

Associate Partner Tektik Consulting

Rapid fire, super condensed advice how to be awesome at your job. I think every other C Level should also read it to know what to expect. And every aspiring Tech Leader.

Mladen Miljic
Mladen Miljic

Senior Manager IoT

The experience of 30 years, crisp and to the point. And on top of that, an extremely practical checklist that nobody should be without. The appendix alone is worth the book.

David Gebhardt
David Gebhardt


This book condenses knowledge and experience of decades in easy to apply rules. They are thought provoking and challenge the CTO in you with one specific goal: become an even better CTO tomorrow.

Steinunn Arnardottir
Steinunn Arnardottir

VP Engineering SPREAD

Stephan is a very experienced tech leader and an exceptional mentor and coach. Amazing CTO is a great book with golden insights for anyone in engineering management

André Neubauer
André Neubauer

CTO Trusted Shops

This book is everything I looked for when I've started but also enjoy reading today. 140 topics rolled into one book. Every topic clear and to the point … everything to initiate the thought process and challenging the status quo

Dr. Raphael A. Bauer
Dr. Raphael A. Bauer

MBA Interim CTO, Fearless organizations

I really enjoyed reading the book and learned many new tricks from Stephan. For example, the CTO Café is a great way to interact with your peers - and of course, I'll be wearing a company T-shirt at every opportunity in the future to attract new hires! A highly recommended read!

Table of Contents

    • 1:Part 1 - Introduction
      • 140 opinionated rules for engineering managers
      • On Pronouns
      • Prolog
      • My Story
      • Be An Amazing CTO
    • 2:Part 2 - Rules
      • “Relax”
        • Starts with a yes
        • Asks for help
        • Does ruthlessly 1:1s
        • Knows it is all about people
        • Holds people accountable
        • Is explaining the world
        • Gives purpose
        • Does not take shortcuts
        • Loves technology
        • Is curious
        • Is not defensive
        • Talks about expectations
        • Has passion
        • Sets up people for success not failure
      • “Land of Confusion”
        • Gets the cow off the ice first
        • Is not her tools
        • Knows the business side
        • Self validates
        • Is not letting people wait
        • Does not waste other peoples time
        • Lives up to her commitments
        • Delegates everything
        • Recruits herself
        • Cares about bugs
        • Is listening
        • Works on things with impact
        • Is focused
        • Knows the Why
        • Is inclusive
      • “Running Up That Hill”
        • Is prepared for a meeting
        • Is a storyteller
        • Develops her reports
        • Cares about privacy
        • Doesn’t do illegal things
        • Is agile
        • Is a tortoise not a hare
        • Is not a CIO
        • Guides people
        • Has a meeting agenda
        • Talks last
        • Changes her mind
        • Admits when being wrong
        • Gives negative feedback in private
        • Compliments others
        • Delivers
        • Admits not knowing everything
      • “Hunting High And Low”
        • Takes leaving not personally
        • Actively promotes
        • Knows technology is a fashion industry
        • Knows processes are swimming wings
        • Knows processes are solved conflicts
        • Handles underperformers
        • Fires people herself
        • Is a professional
        • Manages her boss
        • Leads the team
        • Knows what she loves
        • Budgets expenses
        • Does dailies when hiring
        • Is kind
        • Gives honest feedback
        • Is creative
        • Encourages people to think
      • “Self Control”
        • Is a coder at heart
        • Knows missing Disaster Recover can kill him
        • Takes quality to her heart
        • Translates tech for business
        • Translates business to tech
        • Builds the right product
        • Does not ignore problems
        • Is transparent and open
        • Aligns employees and teams
        • Moderates meetings
        • Does not work in a feature factory
        • Encourages responsibility
        • Fixes retention before she hires
        • Has a mentor
        • Works with peers
        • Has an opinion
      • “Maniac”
        • Is a role model
        • Manages security
        • Cares about his health
        • Knows herself
        • Actively manages her time
        • Is in control of the tech zoo
        • Capitalizes development costs
        • Knows how to deal with pressure
        • Does not invent excuses
        • Does not take failures personally
        • Trusts people
        • Earns her trust
        • Knows assumptions are bad
        • Fixes performance first
        • Automates everything
      • “Call me”
        • Says no
        • Has sit-downs to solve conflicts
        • Knows her role
        • Lives radical simplicity
        • Invests in her growth
        • Has weekly team meetings
        • Encourages leadership
        • Gives responsibility
        • Invests in relationships
        • Gets the best out of people
        • Does not go to all meetings
        • Invests in recruiting
        • Forces decisions
        • Manages technical debt
      • “Brothers in Arms”
        • Does skip level meetings
        • Manages culture
        • Knows her talents
        • She innovates
        • Picks her battles
        • Can scale a team 10x
        • Can scale systems 10x
        • Invests in employer branding
        • Doesn’t make tech decisions
        • Stops the buck
        • Works on deep features
        • Helps others with their careers
        • Knows they are not bound by rules
        • Is a team player
        • Pays the right salary
      • “Xanadu”
        • Supports the CEO
        • Wants to be amazing
        • Is on top of things
        • Knows fear
        • Takes the blame
        • Acts and doesn’t ask
        • Invests half her time in the team
        • Understands the nature of a crisis
        • Knows what to build and what to buy
        • Trains a successor
        • Gives talks
        • Thinks about the future of software development
        • Has a vision
        • Knows that strategy is for people
        • Connects with the tech community
        • Deals with politics
        • Has a personal brand
    • 3:Appendix
      • Lists and Checklists
        • The CTO Blues
        • 1:1 Questions
        • ChatGPT Proof Interviewing
        • Checklist for Job Ads
        • Delegation Checklist
        • Hiring Notes
        • Roles during an incident
        • Interview Questions
        • Laying someone off
        • Onboarding
        • Performance Feedback
        • Performance Factors
        • Very Basic Security Checklist
        • Someone Resigns
      • Models
        • Pyramid Of Change
        • Motivation Model
        • Pyramid Of Relationships
        • Delegation Vicious Circle
        • The Management Triad
        • Employee Life Cycle
        • 9 Box Talent Model
        • Four States of a Development Team
        • Culture Model
        • ZigZag Model of Strategy and Vision
        • Three Gaps of Management
        • Startup Phases
        • Icebergs of Development
        • The Coding Cycle
        • Examples Of Developer Roles
    • Reflections on the future of CTOs
    • Epilog
    • About Stephan
    • About the cover
    • OST Amazing CTO Book
    • The Curious Incident Of The Vending Machine in the Night-Time
    • Recommended Books for CTOs
    • Feedback

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