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Beyond Technical Expertise: Key Traits for a Strategic Fractional CTO

A key player in your organization's technology planning is the CTO (Chief Technical Officer). In this article, we'll explore the essential qualities and skills that make a fractional CTO invaluable to your organization.

Businesses increasingly rely on technology to differentiate themselves from the competition. A key player in your organization's technology planning is the CTO (Chief Technical Officer). If your company doesn't currently employ a full-time CTO, it's probably due to cost constraints as the median salary for a CTO in California is currently $324,900 according to Salary.com. To put it simply, a fractional CTO is a part-time CTO you hire for a fraction of the cost. In this article, we'll explore the essential qualities and skills that make a fractional CTO invaluable to your organization.

An Engineering Background

When we think of a CTO the first image that often comes to mind is a technology guru with infinite knowledge of programming languages, servers, and the list goes on. When it comes to an engineering background you want to look for candidates who have a proven track record of successfully implementing technology solutions in various organizations. They should have a deep understanding of current and emerging technologies, industry trends, and best practices. While it is important to have the broad technical experience necessary to identify the proper techniques required to solve your organization's problems, this is only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to hiring a fractional CTO. A strong fractional CTO should not only have technical prowess but also possess a strategic vision and business acumen. 

The Ability To Identify Problems Before Solutions

Being an "expert problem solver" is a trait commonly exemplified in great leaders. But what if you've identified the wrong problem to solve in the first place? What if the problem you're solving isn't even a problem your customers care about? You can see how using technology to solve low-value problems brings little to no value to your organization. What we want instead is an individual who can work with stakeholders to identify high-value problems to solve and balance risk accordingly.

Vision to Translate Problems Into Features

Now that we've identified the problems that are worth solving with technology, it's time to talk about solutions. Solutions often take the form of features or functionality that we add to our technology products. By starting first with identifying the correct problem to solve and then moving on to identifying the correct solution, it allows us to identify which features we can add to ultimately solve our customer's problems. They must be able to align technology initiatives with the overall business goals and objectives. Look for candidates who can identify opportunities for technology-driven innovation, understand market trends, and create strategies to leverage technology for a competitive edge. 

Strong Communication and Leadership Skills

The ability to communicate technical concepts in a business-friendly manner is crucial for effective collaboration with stakeholders at all levels. Effective communication and leadership skills are paramount to the success of any leader, including a fractional CTO. Much of the job of technology leaders involves managing stakeholder expectations and understanding the core problems that are facing your organization. With the growing popularity of remote and hybrid work environments, communication has become even more key. The ability to communicate between multiple remote stakeholders, engineering teams, and vendors is an ability you must require in a fractional CTO.

A Continuous Learner with a Curiosity for Emerging Technologies

This is an area where the engineering background of a fractional CTO shines. Engineers are naturally curious and have a propensity toward continuous learning. The technology world evolves so quickly around us that your skillset can be completely outdated in only a couple of years if you're not continuously learning. Engineers can be a great source of innovation in your organization's products because they're constantly looking for ways to incorporate emerging technologies such as machine learning and AI. Your fractional CTO should also be able to bring these aspects of technology innovation to your team.


Hiring a fractional CTO can bring enormous value to your organization, but it's essential to identify the right candidate with the key traits and skills necessary for success. When we think of a fractional CTO, our mind often jumps straight to a technology guru, but this puts the cart before the horse and overlooks the other key traits outlined in this article. By finding a fractional CTO who embodies all the above traits, you can leverage their expertise to drive innovation in your technology-based products and services to stay ahead of the competition for a fraction of the cost of a full-time CTO.


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