It’s been an exciting first month at Forecast as a CTO. I was privileged to join the team of talented professionals in December and undertake the mission to deliver software that makes the daily lives of project managers easier. I’d like to take this opportunity to step back and reflect on the decision to join a small, but highly ambitious company.
Even though joining a smaller company is not a decision one can take lightly, when I was offered the CTO role at Forecast, I felt like it was the perfect match for the skills and knowledge I picked up over the last 30 years.
Back in the 90s, I started as a software engineer at a large insurance company in Canada. After three years there, I had the opportunity to travel the world and continue my career in Australia, the United Kingdom, and Denmark. I spent 8 amazing years at SAS Institute, moving from a Principal Developer to a Development Manager role. This is where I was able to build out domain knowledge of commercial software product development, servicing different customers on a global scale. As Forecast is on a mission to scale globally, I couldn’t be happier to help.
When I was about to step into the management position at SAS Institute, however, I realized that technical hands-on skills alone simply won’t suffice. You need to turn into a generalist and look at things differently. With so many different types of problems to solve, you have to learn about many aspects and get involved in a lot of different elements. It’s the variety I think is interesting, and you see the progress when you get stuff done. In fact, there’s always something to learn about the operational environment, development practices, security, how you treat people, and importantly how to grow talent.
The importance of project management
Long before Forecast, I was first privileged to become a CTO at Avaleo. As one of the first employees, I was instrumental in growing the startup, so I spent plenty of time learning how to scale a company, ensuring there were good processes in place, and mastering the art of people management.
What I especially like about the CTO role is that two days are never the same. But sometimes the uncertainty may be difficult to manage, especially on large projects with lots of resources. This is exactly the day-to-day problem Forecast is being built to solve for its customers, and I’m excited to bring my knowledge to streamline this process.
All these great companies I worked at have taught me this - as a leader delivering software, you need to engage in project management a lot. Love it or hate it, this is what drives a high-performing software team, as well as any other team providing professional services, no matter where you work.
When I looked at the Forecast platform, I saw the potential. Forecast goes to great lengths to ease the workload of project managers, so they can focus on the things that humans can do best. On a personal level, I really like having an overview. I even went so far as to plan my wedding in the project management tool, JIRA! Planning a wedding is essentially a complex waterfall project, with a lot of fixed deadlines and many moving parts. So my wife and I made a GANTT chart with tasks and deadlines in JIRA, assigned the tasks, and marked when complete. JIRA is very powerful in the sense that it’s very flexible and you can do a lot in it. However, it’s very complicated, and you need to be well-versed to work with it. Forecast, in turn, is undemanding and easy to pick up.
If the project is complex, there are many balls to keep in the air, let alone admin work. Sometimes, it’s difficult to have an overview as a human being of everything that’s happening. If you have 100-200 people on a program, this is where Forecast's AI can help. We're able to keep track of a lot of data and people to help project managers when it's too complex for them to hold it all in their heads.
The startup spirit
It’s not only the platform that made me choose Forecast as my next destination. Trying a fair amount of jobs that involved scaling development teams in large organizations, I missed the dynamics of a startup. Becoming a CTO in a developing company definitely pays off in flexibility and speed. When you manage a large organization, things can move really slowly. You have a stake and a voice, but sometimes it takes too long for the idea to get recognized and implemented.
Even though Forecast is not a small startup anymore, it’s robust and dynamic. Combine it with a rapid growth journey ahead, and you’ll understand why I was attracted. This is in no way to say that I didn’t enjoy my previous experience. My personal mantra is similar to what Isaac Newton once said: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” I feel learning is fundamental to professional development.
Having joined as CTO, I can’t go without mentioning a few words about the strategy and execution. Every leader should be able to match strategy and vision with how to execute. As a wise man put it, “Strategy without execution is a dream. Execution without strategy is a nightmare.”
In fact, whenever you become a leader, you need to start living in the now and in the future. In Forecast, the most interesting and challenging aspect of my role is ensuring that our platform can grow to support bigger customers. How can we at Forecast support larger organizations both through the functions that are in the platform and our own scalability to support the growth of other companies? While I have to spend a fair amount of time in the present, the future is always at the back of my mind.
There are many indicators of how to run a project well, especially a software project. Industries that are very project-oriented with fixed time deliverables need actionable information, and our goal is to highlight it for them.
On this note, I’d like to thank everyone for the opportunity to join a fantastic team with an important mission. Check our open positions, I’m sure you’ll love it here.