16th Jul 2013

Making the move from CTO to CEO

In late 2011 former Yahoo! Cloud VP and entrepreneur Todd Papaioannou, and former Facebook engineer and entrepreneur Jonathan Gray founded Continuuity, a cloud based Big Data application for programmers based in Palo Alto California. In January 2012 the start-up received $2.5 million in seed funding from investors, and in November the company raised a $10 million Series A round. Papaioannou was CEO until he left the some weeks ago for personal reasons. While he is to stay on as an advisor, Gray makes the move from CTO to CEO in what is his first leadership role.

Gray, a Carnegie Mellon University graduate, was one of the top HBase engineers at Facebook, where he worked on Facebook Messages. Prior to joining Facebook Gray founded Streamy.com, a real-time personalised news site.

As chief executive, continued growth of Continuuity is now Gray’s main objective. He is no doubt coming up against many challenges as he turns his hand to first time leadership. And the fact that he is now CEO does not automatically make Gray a leader. Many business executives who are in positions of power are not leaders, but professional managers. If he is to be successful in his new role Gray needs to prove that he is not just an entrepreneur and an engineer, but a leader. So how can he be a leader?

Simply put, a leader needs to:

Set a clear direction

None of us can predict the future, but a leader must be able to lead. This means having the courage to make often difficult decisions - about the direction the company needs to move in - and being able to stand behind these decisions. A plan should be set in place of where exactly you want to be by the end of the first 100 days.

Bring people with him/her

A leader cannot function alone. There will be little progress if the leader is the only one taking this new direction. So communication is key - is imperative to consistently communicate your reasons, and means of moving forward with your team.

Deliver results

Finally a leader needs to actually get to the planned destination. The results achieved by the end of the first 100 days - through the leader and team’s hard work and shared vision - will be the incontestable proof of your leadership effectiveness.

Gray has acknowledged that the move from CTO to CEO has been a challenging one, but once he understands what a leader is, and what a leader need to do, he should be able to lead Continuuity toward further success and growth.

Hilda Goold

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