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6 years of the NY CTO Summit in 6 minutes

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We won’t argue that a Christmas-y New York has much to offer. The Big Apple becomes an epicenter of the special atmosphere brought by vintage, or rather, mothballs-smelling must-dos such as ice skating at Rockefeller Center, Winter Market at Bryant Park, and much more.

It’s quite touching and all that… but don’t you think that beneath the clichés, there is more magic to be found? At least, any New York techie definitely has a different “all I want for X-mas is...” list. And believe us, it includes visiting CTO Summit.

This December, a few members of our distributed team, for the sixth time in a row, gathered in the heart of New York to meet our peers and share insights accumulated during the year.

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Nasdaq Market Site at Times Square - Traditional venue of the annual New York CTO Summit


Since the holiday season is the best time for reminiscing, we decided to wrap up years of our presence at CTO Summits, remember what we've learned, and bring back some amazing moments we’ve spent there.

The New York CTO Summit, we love you with all our hearts — and here’s why.

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How it all began

Back in 2011, Peter Bell, an experienced founder, our long-time friend, and the godfather of the CTO movement, joined some like minds and co-organized the NY CTO School — a group of startup tech leaders who would like to level up their professional and social endeavors..

Seeking to create a multidimensional learning ecosystem, Peter decided to double down on an already successful effort and launch his first CTO Summit in 2014..

What originally was a small team of friends sharing their wisdom became a huge whole-day conference that, in different years, hosted speakers from LinkedIn, Groupon, Google, Cisco, Slack and other A-list companies.

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Peter Bell, CTO Connection Founder and the speakers’ team at the 2017 NY CTO Summit

Since the beginning, there have been 26 summits across two continents. Having left his job at Flatiron School (until recently, Summits were just a side hustle) in favor of full-time employment at CTO Connection, Peter plans to bring Summits to more U.S. cities and finally go international in 2020. (And yes, we’ll be there to help.)

CTO Connection events actively promote remote work culture, so in order to complete the digital gestalt, Peter pushed his network online, thus scaling to more locations and more people.

The first step was launching a series of free podcasts. In the near future, he’ll be opening perfectly vetted online communities of interest that allow technology talents to connect with fellow hotshots regarding pretty much everything, whether hiring, proper stack choice, or getting feedback on a product.

CTO Summit and the City
is a perfect match

Getting back to NYC, it’s worth saying that this very place was the first to host the CTO Summit for a good reason.

Some time ago, the Savills Tech Cities Index named New York the major tech city in the United States. Also, KPMG recently reported that New York will “likely or very likely” overtake Silicon Valley as the global engineering H.Q. by 2023.

Our own research only proves the above-mentioned prediction. In an upcoming report, we looked at the U.S. startup landscape and learned that New York is one of the hot destinations (maybe that’s why there’s so little snow this year?) for all most-funded startup sectors with a huge concentration of founders in one place.

Accordingly, the CTO Summit with its selected audience — attendance to the event is strictly limited to senior engineering positions — becomes a “petri dish” for non-conventional answers to various technology challenges.

Over the last three years, organizers sold out the NY CTO Summits series (the event ticket has turned into something like a Willy Wonka's golden ticket) and provided over 120 amazing talks.

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Peter Bell and Douglas Ferguson, Voltage Control President, at one the first New York CTO Summits

The 6 best things about the 2019
New York CTO Summit

Let’s teleport to the present and have a look at what our team liked the most about the recent NY CTO Summit.

Deep engineering insights

The latest NY CTO Summit was traditionally a “full house” in terms of useful intel. The attendees were exposed to myriad topics, from creating engineering brand to the tech debt serenity prayers, and everything in between.

Juan Pablo Buriticá, VP Engineering at Splice, discussed how to fix the mess caused by an extremely fast expansion, based on his company experience. He stressed the importance of every data bit and showed a specifically designed framework that helps Splice measure delivery outcomes.

Jason Warner of GitHub and Alexandra Sobhani of Signafire echoed the words of one another regarding team scaling. Jason highlighted the importance of introspection for all members and explained why his team attribute themselves as poets (= product visionaries) and not librarians (= data-driven leaders) when it comes to a product. Alexandra, in her turn, added some details on how Signafire hires within a vertically-integrated setting.

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Alexandra Sobhani of Signafire


James Kenigsberg, CTO at 2U, shared how he applies the “Run. Grow. Transform” construct to “combat attrition and provide professional growth and additional learning opportunities.”

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James Kenigsberg of 2U


The air, electric with excitement, powered the whole audience during Ann Lewis’s speech. She discussed building systems for highly bursty web traffic driven by the news cycle, referring to the buzzed-about Rachel Maddow show.

Other speakers covered such important operational aspects as running the best possible staff meetings, secure engineering environment, costs of software development, etc.

The “social self” of the Summit

What we especially like about this year’s presentations is that each of them has been characterized by a heavy social focus. Here are a few examples.

Stacy Gorelik of Flatiron Health reflected on how parenting makes you an effective manager.

In the “How to build a learning culture” talk, Kwame Thomison of Magnetic insisted on every engineering leader evolving by seeking out engaging learning experiences and making time for self-development.

Also, Claudius Mbemba, CTO at neu, gave an astonishingly sincere presentation called “Engineers are people too,” clarifying why it’s important to understand who your developers are (upholders, questioners, obligers or rebels) and how they respond to expectations in line with specific mindsets.

New York-based technologists’ state of mind

Maybe New Yorkers have the gene responsible for working capacity mutated, or they are just real examples of those half-mythical 10X engineers, but the essential New Yorkness (read: hyperactivity in the best possible way) was explicit in even the smallest detail of the event.

There was no idle “how are yous” or “what are you working ons.” Even during lunch and breaks, attendees were busy discussing teams, solutions and engineering hacks. This is why we feel at home there.

Heart-warming flashbacks

Some speakers have become true Summit “constants.” This is proof that the community is bonding and growing, and Peter’s brainchild is the place one wants to get back to.

Just have a look at some devotees:

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Debbie Madden, CEO at Stride — 2017/2019


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Nick Rockwell, CTO at NY Times — 2017/2019


An interesting fact: Greenhouse was one of the pioneering visitors and has stayed with the Summit ever since.

Why (not) so serious?

Some not-so-serious vibes perfectly completed the Summit’s geek, hyper-caffeinated mood. All this reminded us of something between a stand-up routine and a Harvard lecture. Isn't that just awesome?

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Eliot Horowitz of MongoDB


Opportunity to invest in the community growth

As a multiplatinum CTO Summit sponsor, we not only connect with our target market — we help it thrive. Though we support other cities and are going to increasingly cooperate with organizers to develop new centers, New York is special to us because the iTechArt story started here more than 15 years ago.

This is how Jesse Landry, VP of National Growth at iTechArt, puts it.

Summits are never short on knowledge and value that I can offer to iTechArt’s clients and partners. It feels good to be a part of giving back to an ecosystem that trained me through networking events and tech conferences.

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iTechArt's team at the 2019 New York CTO Summit


New York, new year, new summits

While the next New York Summit is almost a year away, we are not upset about that. As some teasers for the first 2020 Summits will be dropped in the near future, we are staying sharp.

See you soon in New York!

Sources: CTO Connection, Peter Bell, Douglas Ferguson
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