As the organizer of the LA CTO Forum, I get lots of inquiries by job seekers and people looking for CTO / VP Engineering talent.
I’ve written quite a bit about aspects of this topic, especially from the perspective of startup founders looking for talent – you can find these in: Startup CTO. This includes links to CTO Salary and Equity Trends, Technology Roles in Startups, Initial Conversation with a CTO or Technical Advisor, Finding a Technical Cofounder for Your Startup, Hiring a CTO for Your Startup and many others.
What I’ve not written as much about is what to do if you are a CTO looking for your next opportunity – especially in Los Angeles. I have quite a few conversations like this and am having one via email right now, so it inspired me to put it in a post instead.
Targeting Your Job Search
The best starting place is to visit my post on: One Page Job Networking Tool. It suggests that you start by creating a one pager that contains:
- Background - two sentences
- Job Sought - two sentences Company
- Characteristics - geography, size, industry, etc.
- Companies - a list of 25 companies that fit the bill.
This tool forces you to focus on the specifics of who you are really targeting. When I get into a conversation with a CTO looking for their next role, they really need to know the stage of the company (pre-seed, seed, A, B, growth, pre-exit, public/on-going), size of the company – especially numbers of technical resources, geography, etc. Ideally, they’ve thought through all of these characteristics. It’s a good idea to start with a fairly narrow definition.
If you are going after venture-backed startups, then certainly look at socaltech.com and formds. This will give you a pretty good initial list of companies that have raised capital in the geography. Yes, this is going to take a while, but you need to spend the time to figure out who you are really targeting. You should spend time looking at the bios and titles of the people in the company. That is likely the best indicator of whether they might need a new senior technical leader. Of course, just because a CTO or VPE is listed doesn’t mean it’s working well.
Armed with your networking tool, now it’s time to get it out to all the people you know. You are looking both for introductions to the targets you know about, but even more importantly finding out who might have needs that you don’t know about.
What you should be gathering from this is that looking for a job is more of a sales process than anything else and there are no easy answers. You need to start by figuring out who your suspects are. How could you search and identify the companies that would hire you? And then how do you move them through your pipeline?
CTO job seekers often ask me for introductions to executive recruiters. There are some really good executive recruiters here in Los Angeles that cover most of the CTO job searches especially for venture-backed startups. Top of mind and in no particular order:
Note: if I’m missing someone, please let me know.
My experience has been that executive recruiters would really like to know you if you fit the profile of a current search. Otherwise, they are not going to spend time with you. If you think about it, that makes sense. They are going to search out candidates when the time comes.
So, the bottom line these days is that I’m not doing these introductions. If you have other thoughts on this topic, please comment.
VCs / Investors
Another common inquiry is, “Should I get introduced to VCs or other Investors who might need help in their portfolio companies?” My general answer is “no.” Much for the same reason as with executive recruiters. The chance that you fit a specific need is relatively small. Since they don’t know you already, it’s probably not worth their time or yours.
That said, if you already have a relationship with a VC, letting them know you are on the market is a good idea. Actually, you should use your one-page networking document with them so they can likely help even outside their portfolio.