What problem I was solving
A first-time, non-tech founder (CEO) needed a tech co-founder (CTO). The CEO didn’t have a clear picture of what a great CTO candidate might look like for the role and didn’t have a network of folks to tap.
Why solving it was important
The CEO had a great software idea for the logistics space, had fleshed out a business model, had some apha customers that he was serving using an excel spreadsheet. But in order to get term sheets from VCs to fund the development of the software, he needed to have a tech co-founder that could validate the architecture and execute on building it.
Who was involved
I pulled together a team to help the CEO spec out this role. I enlisted help from an engineering leader that had seen problems like this before so that he could help us ask/answer the right questions. The investor from Madrona was involved,+ me and my talent manager.
Where (if relevant)
The CEO was incubating in our office in Seattle, and we targeted Seattle based candidates for proximity. This was pre-covid of course.
mid-2019. The CEO had a burn-down of about 3 months to get this person on board. That’s not much time for this problem set which can often take a year.
1 challenge, constraint or hinderance I faced (related to the superpower you are fleshing out)
The CEO was not technical at all. He didn’t understand how software is built, so the big challenge was getting him to articulate the business problem set in layman’s terms so that we could translate to technical requirements for the job description.
The action I took to complete the task. Keep the focus on me (this is where you reveal your superpower)
My three defining actions were as follows:
I guided the CEO to define what problem he was trying to solve by hiring a CTO. This ended up being a catalyst question for the CEO to then peel back the onion....then... I guided the CEO to create 3 deliverables / milestones that the CTO would have to deliver in the first 30, 60 90, 120, and 240 days. I gave him a framework for this called SMART. I pulled in an engineering leader to act as advisor to this process and he helped us dig a few layers deeper in the two questions above. We did all this in one afternoon.
The outcome, what I accomplished (relate the back to the question the interviewer asked you)
The CEO created a robust and compelling JD that helped my team find “direct hit” candidate profiles, spoke directly to the passions and capabilities of those candidates, and served as an interview guide/scoring matrix for the interview team. A female CTO candidate was hired and on boarded within a month.
Metrics relative to the original goal (relate the back to the question the interviewer asked you)
We delivered this outcome in 1 month. This time to fill metric is 3x faster than the original aggressive goal of 3 months, and 12x faster than industry standard of 12 months. We delivered about 20 on-target profiles to the CEO, and he hired 1 of them. This 20:1 candidates:hired ratio is 10x better than the industry gold standard average of 200:1 Our slate included 20% underrepresented female/bipoc candidates. The selected candidate was a female.
In summary, role specing is one of the most important ways I help start up start up companies figure on their hiring needs. This was an example of an executive scenario, but this is the same methodology I created and use for all levels, all functions, high volume or low volume of hires.
What I learned from the experience (relate back to the question the interviewer asked you)
Hiring managers often use the interview process as the role definition mechanism, but I learned from this experience that we can accelerate this learning with good frameworks. This CEO didn’t know what he didn’t know. He thought he knew exactly what a great CTO looked like, but when we started drilling down with these role-specing questions, he discovered for himself that he lacked clarity. If we’d have gone to the candidate market with just a job title and a vague description, we’d have targeted the wrong candidates, would not have had a great story to tell to engage them. We heard from the hired candidate that the JD was incredibly compelling - enough so that she walked away from a multi-million-yearly vesting pay-out at a public company to be the co-founder of this company for a $150/year salary plus 10% ownership of the company which at that point had no product or ARR!
What I would do same/differently next time (relate back to the question the interviewer asked you)
Same: Bringing the team of subject matter experts together to help the CEO think through the tech questions that I could not personally vet. Working through the questions with the CEO and giving him homework and a template to flesh out the JD. He is a “long-form” thinker and wrote a 4 page JD that was brilliant. Different: For CEOs that don’t work in the long-form, I would make sure they are not overwhelmed with the template and ensure they stick to a 1 page bullet point list.
The job description indicates that this role will be helping start up executives define hiring needs. So this example focused on that use-case. I would be happy to give other examples for how I help companies define individual contributor roles (ie; Product Manager, Software Engineer) in small sets (1-2) or massive scale out sets (100-500).