From CTO to CTE, why I am now comfortable being an Evangelist

I’ve finally done something that I didn’t think I would, I’m now using the word Evangelist as part of my job title. My full title going forward will be ‘Chief Technology Evangelist’

Now I’m not particularly hung up on job titles but the simple reality is that they do set an expectation as to what people can expect to hear from you if they were to meet you, or to read from the content that you put out there.

I’d actually not been a fan of using this particular word to describe myself or my role, but there have now been so many occasions that when I describe what I do people frequently would reply to me by saying…’so you’re an evangelist for NetApp then?’.

Over the last few years I’ve had a couple of different titles and looking back on these, in my reluctance to want to use the word ‘Evangelist’, I think my titles didn’t actually reflect who I was or what I did. Director, Technology and Strategy would typically lead people to still ask…’what is it exactly that you do then?’. 

More recently I moved to report to the SVP for our WW Enterprise and Commercial organisation and decided that it would probably make sense for me to take on the ‘CTO’ title, this seemed to make sense at the time but there are downsides to this.

  • Tech companies often have a LOT of field based CTO’s, more often than not these are people that are very Senior SE’s or Consultants and are well respected in their field, but are they really CTO’s? I personally feel that we’re in danger of diluting the strength and value of the actual CTO role by having so many people use the title (I’d be very interested in your thoughts on this)
  • Linked to the above though, in times of change (with incredible speed in Technology & IT) we do benefit from people working with customers, partners, industry experts, technologists, (even competitors) to detect patterns, adoption and failures. Innovation takes resources and time and you need a bridge between swarm intelligence in the market and a CI/CD development on your products and you can’t just take the opinion of 1 to make a decision.
  • I believe that a true CTO is a senior role and in a company like ours should be the bridge between the possible (innovate & lead), the reality (buyers & market) and making the right decisions and choices (to achieve win/win situations) and this is something that needs to be orchestrated, moderated, understood.

And this isn’t me.

When I actually think about what I do which is mostly outwardly focused then it typically comes down to these four things

  • Inspire passion in employees and consumers, creating an inspiring story that people can connect to and want to be a part of
  • Showcase the potential uses and benefits of NetApp technology to help companies understand how they can use it for themselves and be excited by it
  • Create a human connection with buyers and consumers to the NetApp story and technology
  • Understand the changing nature of technology and trends to ensure we are current, relevant and that we bring this into our story and capabilities

And these for me are much more aligned to what a Chief Technology Evangelist does.

My friend and colleague Peter Wuest will take on the role of VP and CTO for our WW Enterprise and Commercial business and I will be working very closely with him to share my thoughts and perspectives on the changing nature of the industry and significant emerging trends that we need to be aware of. With this and the collected knowledge from the broader field community he will help to create bridges between our field, our product development teams and our enablement teams to ensure that our products, solutions and partnerships are then best aligned to what our current or future customers need. This is a very important and necessary role, congratulations Peter!

I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on CTE and CTO roles

5 thoughts on “From CTO to CTE, why I am now comfortable being an Evangelist

  1. Matt a key element of what you do and do better than most is “decode” technology change and position its relevance. I have always listened carefully to you because you bridge the gap from “how to why” . I’m not sure if the title “evangelist” but it’s probably better than “decoder” your real gifts are analysis and communication. You don’t get lost in the “widget mk 7.1 allows unparalleled something” you examine and articulate solutions to real problems. In the computer industry we have grown up listening to geeks who understand the “how” in today’s world we need the “why”. If I am a furniture removal company I need a furniture van, I need to understand why your van is better than the competition’s van …… and how it will integrate into my business and not provide a problem in the future. I don’t need to know how the gearbox works..just “keep on keeping on” mate.

  2. Forgot to also add you would also examine “do I need a better furniture van or a smarter way to do this? “

    1. Appreciate the comment Dave. I think it’s the ‘Engineer’ side of my personality that gets me thinking this way. I find myself always questioning why we do things a certain way and wondering if whether with a bit more information you could actually find a different and possibly better answer.

  3. Hi Matt
    I very much share you thoughts as I went through that path myself. Currently meeting some CTO at partners and customers whose roles are very senior, deep technical as well as visionnaires. So I agree with you that it is important not to make it to something too fluffy to the benefit of some kind of title. It is a key role in an organization.
    I very much see you as an influencer / evangelist/ technologist / inspiring speaker and you know how much I think about you. So I think it is the right move for you and I am happy you have taken that path. Good luck in that my friend.

    1. Great to hear from you JeF, I do hope all is well with you.

      I think Peter will be great in his role as CTO, and it ensures that I spend my time where I most enjoy it and also I hope, add the most value which is to be very outwardly focused. I do lso want to be able to give some of my time back to others, so many people helped me and guided me along the way, so I’d like to set something up where I can share my thoughts, ideas and maybe some guidance to others that aspire to become better speakers and storytellers. Probably something for me to talk about in a future post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.