A quick summary and takeaways from our first in-person CTO Craft Con

‘One of the best tech conferences for CTOs – especially considering the tight focus and specific content for growth of CTOs.’

Sanford Dickert, C-Suite, technical/product leader

On 23 and 24 May 2023, CTO Craft took over Tobacco Dock, London, to host the, if we do say so ourselves, fantastic CTO Craft Con. Over 250 tech leaders descended on the sunny dock location to join our first in-person conference, network with like-minded leaders and listen to experienced and inspirational speakers.

Here’s a quick lowdown of the two days, highlights, feedback and hopefully, key takeaways.

Who attended? 

A wealth of experienced technical leaders from an impressive array of businesses, from start-ups to large technology organisations. Yet, regardless of background or the journey each leader took to be where they are today, the atmosphere was inclusive and friendly. Event feedback shows that this made a forum for networking, learning and knowledge sharing.

‘CTO Craft Con was a fantastic event. Super-well organised, cool venue and wide range of interesting topics and speakers! I learned a lot!’

Tobi Tonner, Founder at Workband, technology leader, mentor and coach

The format

In-person events have gradually resumed since the pandemic, and for so many, this was a welcome opportunity to actually see many from Slack and CTO community in person. 

The format was relatively simple, with networking first thing during registration, good coffee and warm pastries, and each day led by Chairs Lee-Jon Ball and Emma Hopkinson-Spark, structured with various speaker presentations and panel chats.

We held lunch in the fabulous Quayside Bar, and as the weather was so kind to us, there was the opportunity to mingle over the buffet or outside by the boats in the charming cobble-stoned area.

‘Thank you very much for this event and for bringing us together! It was a blast. CTO Craft community is awesome!’

Max Orlovsky, Head of Engineering at Chiliz & Socios.com

The speakers

We had over 40 speakers, so we won’t name them all here, but they spoke on many areas of CTO leadership. On day one, speakers came from businesses including RVU (uSwitch, Confused.com), MindGym, Launchpad, Cazoo and Coding Black Females.

Our speakers represented The Financial Times, Trainline, Kiln, Cordless, Workband and YouTube, amongst others, on day two.

CTO Craft Con

‘Really good range of speakers and topics! There’s something for everyone, whether you’re from a small start-up or a large-scale business. Great to be in a space with so many like-minded individuals solving the same problems.’

Jen Beattie, Head of Engineering, Give Panel 

Discussions and takeaways

The first day started with an interesting discussion about the CTO journey, key challenges and how tech leaders can prepare themselves for change. We also heard from Albany and how you can build a compensation package to suit your role, funding stage and location, focusing on the fascinating data from our recent compensation survey with Albany.

There were also discussions about the following:

  • Attitudes to tech debt and how it doesn’t have to be written off in one fail swoop; it can be managed. It’s not just about the focus on eradicating it; it’s about how you effectively manage it and use it for acceleration. 
  • Acting on feedback and understanding how your product/s is received in the market and your reaction to feedback. And asking yourself, are you gathering valuable feedback, are you listening to it, and are you adapting in response to it?
  • How development teams should deliver value, not just working software. Instead of focusing purely on process and outcome, they should focus on customer value.
  • How technical leaders are under increasing pressure to provide a clear vision and work closely with CFOs to gain buy-in to potential spending via a strategy that non-technical individuals can understand.

On day two, we began by exploring vision, strategy, tactics, communication and OKRs (objectives and key results). It was apparent that leaders should adapt their communication methods to facilitate different team members, and as teams grow, communication must become consistent and regular across teams. 

CTO Craft Con

Throughout the day, there were also presentations and panels, including:

  • How to survive and thrive during periods of change, focusing on investing in the growth of your engineers and hiring generalists and maintaining a shared purpose for engagement.
  • Ways to receive feedback, create a feedback culture and the importance of collaboration and conflict resolution.
  • The need for collaboration and harmony between engineering and product.
  • Ways to build resilience to stress and improve well-being in high-pressure environments and the importance of flexible working and personal development.

The good, the great and the not-so-ugly feedback

We’ve reviewed all feedback from the conference and will make changes where we can to improve. Overall (out of 5), you rated the event 4.4 and the speakers 4.1. The venue scored 4.3, and 4.3 said it met your expectations. And you gave staff a mighty 4.9, so thank you!

Regarding improvements, you asked for more talks, fewer panels and firesides, a later start time and some shorter sessions, all of which we will ensure for the November conference.

One attendee called the conference a masterclass in tech leadership, and another celebrated the impartial wisdom offered by technology leaders. In addition, feedback suggested that the conference appealed to the board of leaders by discussing how startups can appeal to investors and how to balance tech debt.

But here are some more of the lovely comments we received (and no, we did not force this from respondents with the promise of extra pastries):

‘CTO Craft Con was the best conference I’ve been to. The range of speakers, the varied format, the great organisation and facilitation, and the location all made it a great event. I’ve attended 2 or 3 virtual CTO Craft conferences, but by virtue of being in person, this one felt that bit more engaging.’

Rien Sach, CTO at Aptem

‘CTO Craft Con is a great experience to surround yourself with innovative leaders. It is an unrivalled sense of camaraderie. It’s not just a conference; it’s an immersion in a supportive and nurturing community that uplifts and encourages you every step of the way. Whether you’re a seasoned leader or new to the space, you’ll feel a sense of belonging and inclusion that will fuel your learning and propel you forward.’

Nic Goodall, Head Of Engineering at Learnerbly

‘As a tech leader, you can often feel limited in the people you can speak to within your organisations, especially in smaller start-ups/scale-ups. CTO Craft is a great community that gives you access to tech leaders of all experiences and events like #ctocraftcon gives you exposure to topics and relevant insights that you can take back to your day-to-day roles and teams. A great event I would definitely recommend.’

Neil Williams, Head of Technology at ActiveQuote

If you missed out, you can join in

All the May CTO Craft Con sessions are now live.

If you couldn’t attend the event or want to relive the incredible moments, now is your chance to catch up on all the action via recordings. Recording passes are available for £199 and can be purchased here.  

You can also join us at the next CTO Craft Con in November by pre-registering now:

Culture and the CTO – Unleashing the Power of People

7-8 November 2023 | Tobacco Dock, London


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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