itechart at the cto san francisco summit takeawaysBLOG

The San Francisco CTO Summit takeaways: Listen. Inspire. Change the game


First, a quick note for those who might pass it up. Earlier this month, we visited the CTO Connection Summit in San Francisco.

If you just think, “Anything else I don't know?”, be sureyou jump to conclusions way too fast. We know you’ve already had some teasers on Twitter and LinkedIn, but our team prepared lots of first-person accounts to give you the full picture.

Sit back and read the story of how we got a level-up (or maybe a few) at one of the most insightful and engaging engineering events.


A few times a year, CTO Summit delivers a perfect storm of action-packed atmosphere, networking and extremely valuable content from top CTOs and senior engineering managers. It is an incredible opportunity to meet the industry’s leading players.

So, when the calendar switched to May and the West Coast was circled red on the map, our team started to prepare for a show.

Like a five-star general, strategizing is our usual frame of mind, and we worked out a thorough plan to maximize the value of time and come up with even better solutions in the future.

Here at iTechArt, we always strive to do things that help strengthen the software development community, which is why we have been a proud sponsor of CTO Connection since its inception. So off we went on a true quest to complete a series of vital tasks and fulfill our ultimate mission.

Wonder if we made it? Read on!

CTO Summit walkthrough

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The iTechArt team has a green thumb when it comes to growing networks. As CTO Summit bills itself as a place to learn and connect with your peers, we felt totally at home.

Sincenetworking is often the number one reason that people attend events,  everything at the venue was designed for attendees to socialize and introduce themselves to new contacts.There was an open-seating layout andwe witnessed numerous small round-table discussions where participants were able to comfortably exchange opinions and ideas during presentations.

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                                                                         The CTOs of the Round Table

The facilitated networking sessions during the breaks were also a big hit. We were extremely happy to see old friends and link up with this year’s newcomers. The iTechArt team shared its perspective on key topics, got some valuable feedback in return, and managed to lay the foundation for successful collabs in the future.

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This year, CTO Summit’s star-studded lineup included 20+ participants from Google, GitHub, Cisco, Looker, Slack, Mapbox, and many more. Speakers shared their success stories as well as how they deal with “whack-a-mole” type everyday challenges.

Leadership and management

Nick Cald, CPO at Looker, talked about hot (literally) content. He demonstrated how the spark that ignites real leadership occurs at the intersection between a person’s passion and the company’s needs.

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Nick highly recommends seeking enthusiasm and eagerness in employees to ensure that the flame burns the hottest and the cleanest.

Ron Lichty, VP Engineering at Ron Lichty Consulting, talked about how the trouble in software development is generally not people, but planning and processes instead. Here are some of his essential practices you can use to help your team struggle less:

1. Establish the Fist to Five method to address any doubts right away.

2. Use the word “accomplished” instead of “what I did yesterday” and “accomplish” for “what I’ll do today” to force more concreteness at daily standups.

3. Estimate each task, no matter the project size or budget.

The Audience Choice Award would definitely go to Danielle Leong, Engineering Manager at GitHub. (And it’s not just because she included adorable puppy photos in her slide deck.)

cto summit san francisco 5                                                                                      Danielle Leong

Danielle delivered a motivational speech on emotional intelligence. She pointed out that software is a team sport where every vote counts, and it’s vital to let people speak up and provide feedback about processes, projects, and culture.

Danielle spoke to the audience about how she educated herself on ageism in tech, microaggressions, unconscious biases and many other important social issues and how she learned to look at things from other people’s perspective. When it comes to hiring within the emotional intelligence paradigm, here’s her advice:

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10x performance program

Another important takeaway was when Johnny Austin of Mapbox proved that 10x engineers really exist. He stressed that all senior developers should be 10x-ers, because such people usually increase the productivity of others. We also learned how to grow and hire such super-productive talent.

cto summit san francisco 4                                                                                     Johnny Austin

Austin’s counterpart Casey Rosenthal, CTO at, also shared some tips on how to optimize the company structure and engineering processes for desired delivery velocity.

Inclusion in all its forms

The San Francisco CTO Summit demonstrated that an inclusion and diversity strategy should be about much more than just gender. Ann Funai of Under Armour encouraged taking the time to explain engineering to non-technical colleagues, as it helps them understand technology and incentivizes proactive input from everyone in the company.

Tara Hernandez, Senior Engineering Manager at Google, emphasized the inclusive nature of open source and advised everyone who couldn’t get an internship to contribute to an open source project.

When Christine Spang of Nylas asked participants if they everworried about gender diversity in their teams, 90% of the room raised their hands. Unfortunately, the tech industry’s situation mirrors that of the whole world.

According to Christine, men still do most of the talking at Nylas, so she told us how she personally targets the problem by fixing the hiring process, translating their diversity goals through online channels, and (most importantly) grading on the quality of the code.

Remote is the new in-house

At iTechArt, we are aficionados of all things remote software development. We were thrilled to hear Christian McCarrick, VP Engineering at Auth0, state that when going remote, one has to go all in. He also provided best operational practices and presented a range of tips on how distributed teams help promote diversity and create a competitive advantage.

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One might think it’s impossible to have fun at such an intense and value-driven conference, but trust us when we say, “it’s not!”

Proving that nothing will ever match the power of loving what you do,  the speakers were living it up and enjoying themselves every minute. The atmosphere was infectious.

Nick Cald definitely racked up the most laughs when he described Pitbull (and his gang) as a leadership role model to the CTO Summit.

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iTechArt participated in the summit in many ways: as a diamond sponsor, a brand storyteller, and avid partiers (after the event, of course.) We were thrilled to be able to speak with so many different people throughout the event. We made lots of new friends!

itechart at the cto san francisco summit 5                                                                               Meet the iTechArt team

We even live-tweeted our favorite moments on social media, so there was much for you to ‘Like.’

Many people learned how iTechArt helps forward-thinking companies build easily manageable distributed teams. All of our engineerspossess diverse strengths, interests, and backgrounds, unitedby a passion for bringing versatile products that make a difference. This is why we visit CTO Summits every year.

The game is not over

There we go! Though for now, we’ve finished this adventure, the real magic is ahead. The upcoming CTO Summit series is set to begin in the fall, so there isn't much longer to wait. Stick around!

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