A Recap of CTO Craft Con | Winter 2022

We’re still on a high from our conference on 14-16 November. Thank you to everyone who attended and to our speakers and sponsors. It was a busy three days, but hopefully, you learned a lot and made some new networking connections. If you missed any of the talks or have never attended a CTO Craft conference before, here’s a whistlestop tour of what we covered.

The focus

Over three days, expert speakers discussed essential aspects of forming and maintaining relationships with other C-level leaders and effectively building your network as an Engineering Leader. Plus, we covered many other leadership areas we believed were of particular interest. 

During the conference, we covered the following:

  • Day 1 Engineering and Product
  • Day 2 Leadership and Alignment
  • Day 3 The UnConference: Lighting Talks and Roundtable Sessions

“A whole suite of incredible talks and panels today! So impressed.” Jo Carter, Head of Engineering, Poplar Studio.

Who attended?

Lots of you! We had hundreds of attendees from all over the world taking part in 17 exclusive sessions. Most people attended from the UK, US, Spain, Germany, Romania, Netherlands, Canada, Ireland and Kenya.

“I want to commend CTO Craft on the diversity of the speakers in pretty much every single dimension I can think of.” Pablo Fernández, CTO @ Koinly.

Our speakers

We had 34 CTOs and thought leaders from the best technology businesses in the world who shared their insights and wisdom. In addition, there was a great cross-section of leaders from many verticals and company stages from around the world, who we hand-picked to give the most useful and actionable information in keynotes, fireside chats and talks.

A round-up of Day 1

The first day of the conference, hosted by Emma Hopkinson-Spark, Chief of Staff at 101 Ways, kicked off with a keynote from Robin Sutara, Field CTO at Databricks. Robin discussed the evolving roles of C-Suites in Technology and she mentioned three principles to work by:

① Make sure your strategy is based on principles.

② Try to focus not only on the technology but also the people and the process.

③ Focusing on change management ensures you’re applying best practice.

You can read more of Robin’s insight on our Spotlight Q&A.

Alex Canessa, Head of Engineering at EY, also joined us and talked about How to Mentor Genius Engineers.

“Getting the best out of your team of Engineers is like an art, and a science, which is why all leaders will have experienced a freshly employed Engineer with huge promise but a lack of experience and knowledge. Somebody that might even be better at coding than you but can’t yet be left on their own.”

We also featured a fascinating panel debate about Tests vs Observability, where our speakers discussed strategies and debated the impacts and outcomes of the two different data approaches with varying pros and cons. Our moderator was Glyn Roberts, CTO of Digital Solutions at iTechArt, and he was joined by Charity Majors, CTO at Honeycomb, Adriana Villela Senior Technical Leader at Lightstep and Aubrey Stearn, CTO at Betta.

Frankie Nicoletti, VP of Engineering at SoLo Funds focused on the topic of Debugging People Problems and gave us real examples from 3 different start-ups of how to manage and lead your people. While she did say, “I regret to tell you that everything is a people problem,” she also added. “People who admire you will mirror your behaviour.” So it’s essential to set a good example.

We had two cosy Fireside Chats, and in the second one, James Conroy-Finn talked to CTO and Engineering Leader Claudius Mbemba to share lessons learned from layoff experience in hopes that it better prepares other executives if and when the time comes. 

“Layoffs are never fun. If Covid has taught us one thing, it’s that layoffs are here to stay. Sadly, they are part of doing business. I highly recommend that you execute your layoffs as personably as possible. Be present and available during this time.” Claudius Mbemba.

Hywel Carver from Skiller Whale closed the day with a keynote about why you must invest in your people in a downturn. He commented that the challenge for leaders is to consider, “How can we achieve more without expanding our organisations? Our status quo is to do that by growing headcount, but that is no longer feasible.”

A roundup of Day 2

Day 2 of the CTO Craft Conference focused on Leadership & Alignment. We had fantastic keynotes from Lena Reinhard, Leadership & Executive Coach and Consultant and Jody Bailey, CTO at Stack Overflow.

Lena discussed effective leadership in a hybrid world and said, “The human presence is singular. Hybrid work is a very complex environment.”

Jody discussed why collaboration and democratising institutional knowledge is essential for scale and how to create more agile teams ready to build for the future. He said, “Over 70% of developers are learning new technology at least once a year. That means when a developer graduates, technology will have changed four times over.” 

We also had a brilliant panel discussion on developer happiness with moderator Laura Tacho, Engineering Leadership Coach and VP of Engineering and speakers Cornel Fatulescu, Chief Platform Officer at Pentalog, Abby Seneor, CTO at Citibeats and Andy Clarke, CTO & Co-Founder at Evidenced. They discussed how recent years have impacted developer happiness and what we can do as leaders to be aware of such issues and proactively bridge the gap. 

James Samuel, Engineering Manager, Reddit, spoke in depth about how managers can lead with visibility and Ben Dodd, Co-Founder at Armakuni, gave us some fascinating insights into organisational culture for Net Zero. In addition, Eric Weiss, CTO Coach and Tech Consultant at Full Cycle Product, discussed how to become the right leader at the right stage of your company.

We also had a Fireside chat about what your first team really want from you, hosted by Jessica Zwaan, Chief Operating Officer at Whereby. Talking about the first team were Maya Moufarek, Coach and Growth CMO Consultant at Marketing Cube, Andy Ayim, Investor, EIR & Product Leader, Josh Knowles, VP of Strategy and Operations at Code Climate and Melissa Trahan, VP of People at Farewill.

“Our roles consist of therapists, coaches, ruthless problem solvers and recruiters. There are so many hats. The key is to find the way to pull it all together.” Melissa Trahan.

A roundup of Day 3: the Unconference

This was CTO Craft’s first Unconference, and from speaking to attendees and looking at the engagement, we can proudly say it was a hit!

The afternoon was packed with twelve Lightning Talks and various Roundtables hosted by some of our expert speakers. The Lightning Talks were chosen from the many Call for Papers we received from you, and we held two streams running simultaneously. Thank you to all the speakers, as these talks can be nerve-wracking experiences but incredibly worthwhile.

Each session lasted for 15 minutes, and the topics were:

Stream 1 hosted by Dr Lee-Jon Ball, Interim CTO / Leadership Consultant

  • Shape Up Experiments for a Scrum Team
  • Time Driven Development
  • Observability Anti-Patterns
  • Managing for software sustainability
  • Identifying Waste: Symptoms of Software Development And Delivery
  • How safe is a cat in your organisation

Stream 2 hosted by Andy Skipper, Founder and CEO, CTO Craft

  • Migrating UIs at scale – our path to bringing 100k users from a legacy native desktop app to modern web tech
  • How to build a development team in 3 days 
  • How much QA is enough QA?
  • Building a team with only “A” players: Is it desirable? Is it achievable? Is it expensive?
  • Legacy Code: Sunk Cost or Opportunity?
  • When Product and Tech meet (or don’t)

We ended with an exciting group of Roundtables, where attendees could choose a table to join. The topics included Engineering Roadmaps, Estimatations and Predictability, Giving Feedback, Build Vs Buy, Documentation, Stress and Burnout, Goals and OKRs, Delegation and Team Structures.

Recommending Reading

Between our speakers and attendees, there was plenty of reading suggestions to get you through 2022 and into 2023. Here’s just a selection of them:

  • Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace by Gordon MacKenzie
  • Multipliers by Liz Wiseman
  • Thinking In Bets by Annie Duke
  • Reframing Technical Debt
  • Firing Well
  • The Coach’s Casebook by Geoff Watts and Kim Morgan. 
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  • The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni

If you’re considering joining the CTO Craft community, you can find out more about it on our website, where we also have blogs packed full of information from our conference speakers and about working in technology.


If you or your CTO / technology lead would benefit from any of the services offered by the CTO Craft community, use the Contact Us button at the top or email us here and we’ll be in touch!

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