[Standard] Dot com CTOs compare notes...

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From: Adam Rifkin -4K (adam@XeNT.ics.uci.edu)
Date: Fri May 19 2000 - 00:32:39 PDT

Man, it's easier to find articles about CTOs than it is to find Andy
Bechtolsheim's email address.


> Dot-com CTOs Compare Notes
> The biggest challenge is keeping up with company success.
> By Jenny Oh
> May 17, 2000, 02:32 PM PST
> Chief technology officers from Amazon, Autobytel, eToys (ETYS) and
> Vignette (VIGN) set their coding issues aside on Tuesday morning to
> focus on their roles as managers and business executives at InfoWorld's
> CTO Forum. No one shared a secret recipe for programming, but the San
> Francisco gathering produced an easily digestible course on maneuvering
> the windy CTO path at an Internet company.
> Constant communication is key if you want to make sure that your
> technology gear is tough enough to withstand the customer traffic that
> your marketing department is herding in. But don't be fooled; it's not
> an easy task, especially if your company is succeeding.
> "Controlled chaos" is how Amazon's Charlie Bell described his role as
> vice president of IT infrastructure at the globally expanding seller of,
> well, nearly everything. "The hardest nut to crack is meeting the
> demands of customers and scaling {technologically}. You don't want to
> strangle the business with the process {of expansion}," Bell says.
> Autobytel.com faces the same issues. The Irvine, Calif.-based company
> counted over 5 million unique visitors in the first quarter of this
> year. The challenge of "balancing market reach and the ability to
> fulfill that reach" requires a lot of communication between departments,
> says David Grant, CTO of the online car seller.
> While heavy traffic is no reason for an online retailer to complain,
> when the company's IT infrastructure can't handle peaks, customers are
> likely to cry foul. Richard Schwartz, CTO of Vignette, a large vendor of
> Web servers, says planning the IT budget generously is one measure of
> prevention. "Invest enough up front so you can keep growing. Before
> seeing the success of {your company}, you want to over-invest,"
> Schwartz says.
> For all the foresight their jobs may require when it comes to predicting
> technology needs, these CTOs may need a refresher in Andy Grove's
> bestseller, "Only the Paranoid Survive." All panelists were suspiciously
> confident, especially given the fact that the Nasdaq shocker left these
> companies trading between 50 percent and 92 percent below their 52-week
> highs. (Such drops affect a company's ability to hire and retain
> technology experts, who expect fat options packages.)
> Online retailer eToys doesn't think that brick-and-mortar operations
> like Toys-"R"-Us pose a threat, says SVP and CIO John Hnanicek. To make
> a return on its sizable investment in leasing space and building the
> store, the brick and mortar can't afford to give up sales revenue to an
> online channel, he says.
> The same attitude was expressed by other panelists. Autobytel's Grant
> was "not too worried" about brick-and-mortar giants like Ford, but
> suggested that it may be waiting to acquire tech startups during a
> depressed market. Adds Amazon's Bell, "I'm not worried about what the
> guy down the street is doing. This is a big space, and there's lots of
> room {for other companies.}"
> So what keeps these hot-shot CTOs up late at night? Answers were as
> different as the goods they were selling.
> Amazon's Bell was most concerned about scalability, particularly as his
> company continues to expand internationally and operations become
> decentralized. "Keeping up the technology platform as we get larger; It
> becomes harder to do the right thing," Bell says.
> eToys' Hnanicek was most concerned about retaining good employees in a
> tight labor market. He warned against relying too much on financial
> lures like stock options to win employees' loyalty. "Ultimately, it's
> your IT people that drive {your business}. If you build a culture solely
> driven on stock valuations, you're gonna pay for that," he says.
> With an unpredictable market wreaking havoc on staff loyalty, it's no
> wonder that the average employee at Vignette spends 10 percent of their
> time on recruiting. And when it comes to hiring plans, Schwartz says
> that to stay in the game, companies can't focus on a "long, yearly
> cycle," but rather on a quarterly or monthly time frame.


There are numerous examples of young leaders who have stayed at the helm and done well. To use the obvious example, Bill Gates started when he was 19 or 20. But please don't compare me to him. -- 25-year-old 1stUp CEO Charlie Katz, http://www.thestandard.com/article/display/0,1151,15213,00.html

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