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CTO vs VP of Engineering: Who Do You Need?

Jun 8, 20225 min read

Robert Krajewski

Co-founder and CEO of Ideamotive. Entrepreneur, mentor and startup advisor.

CTO vs VP of Engineering: Who Do You Need?

Tech founders often face the difficult decision battle of CTO vs VP of engineering: who is the right talent for my startup? The decision can be a dilemma in the rapidly changing technology industry, where talented professionals are in high demand. The tech industry needs individuals who appreciate being at the forefront of technology, and two essential roles, the Vice President of Engineering and Chief Technology Officer fit the job description. 


However, people frequently misunderstand the role of the VP of Engineering and that of the CTO. These leadership positions have a semblance to that of the product designer and the UX designer. And in some ways, both jobs are similar. Yet, they are unique. And their uniqueness benefits a company's growth and goals differently. 


A company may not need both a CTO and a VP of engineering at the same time. So this article aims to answer your technical leadership questions on when to fill the CTO and VP of engineering leadership positions in your company. Which one fits your needs better as a startup? And the comparison between CTO vs VP of engineering. At the end of this article, you'll be able to determine the roles of each professional and the one best suited to be in your company. Not only that, we'll provide some insight on how to find and hire a CTO for your startup

Who Is a CTO? What Does He Do? 

what the cto does

The chief technology officer (CTO) oversees the organization's technical demands. He resolves IT challenges, plans, and implements policies. Also, he manages and assesses the company's technology resources, research, and development.


A CTO has the managerial skills to align strategic choices with the organization's goals. He considers an organization's short and long-term needs. And‌ employs cash to make investments that aid in the achievement of goals.

Who Is a VP Of Engineering? What Does He Do? 

A vice president of engineering is also called the VP of engineering. It is another leadership position tasked with supervising development teams. The VP is an organizational leader who communicates with teammates and solves strategic difficulties. Engineering vice-presidents ensure that UX/UI designers satisfy all UX/UI design criteria.


An individual who holds this position supervises the consistency of user experiences. Also, his engineering management skills must be top-notch as he manages a team of engineers and developers. In addition, a VP of engineering interacts with product managers and product designers. He enhances corporate rules and standards. 

The Primary Distinction Between CTO vs VP of Engineering

Before we delve into the comparison of CTO vs VP of engineering, please note that both have essential responsibilities. And each of these roles requires technical leadership qualities. Now, let's compare the CTO vs VP of engineering in terms of vision, strategy, and responsibilities. 

CTO vs VP of Engineering: Responsibility


The VP of engineering is in charge of development and engineering; he builds and maintains development teams. Additionally, he tracks the team's progress and contributes to the decision of team members' career promotion within the company. 


On the other hand, the CTO takes charge of the overall technology strategy. The CTO controls a company's technical direction and directs the engineering culture and vision.


CTO vs VP of Engineering: Vision

 In terms of the company's vision, the CTO controls the company's thought leadership. Also, he manages engineering and guides technological processes to achieve set goals. In contrast, the VP of Engineering ensures that they achieve the product's vision through team leadership and cooperation. 


Basically, a VP of Engineering designs the engineering department's annual budget. Then, the CTO works with the budget to establish plans to improve the firm.

CTO vs VP of Engineering: Strategy

The CTO spends most of his time researching, rewriting procedures, and reviewing tech architecture. On the flip side, the VP of engineering does processes and program management, which is essential, as investigating and managing operations can improve efficiency and minimize costs.


Ultimately, the CTO improves the quality of existing technological processes, emphasizing deliverables. While the VP of engineering executes and expands projects to fulfill product objectives.




VP of Engineering


A CTO is a technical visionary.

A VP of engineering is a technical and people leadership role.


They drive innovation and implement a strategy to boost business growth.

They grow and manage an engineering team.


CTO handles thought leadership.

A VP of engineering ensures the product vision is executed.


They’re highly recommended in startups.

They’re not needed in startups.


Responsible for leading the team.

Responsible for hiring and building out the tech team.

When Should You Hire a CTO or VP of Engineering?

The roles of a CTO and a VP of engineering are valuable in a startup. However, you're not to hire professionals to fill both positions simultaneously. Because hiring for each role depends on the stage a startup is in.


Early-stage startups require a CTO. The reason is that they establish the project's true technical demands. Also, they assign funds and assess resource requirements. The CTO's experience in a programming language such as JavaScript is advantageous for a software product. 


During the seed stage of funding, a CTO has a critical role to perform. He has diverse tasks to manage. Indeed, CTOs may have to get their hands dirty by writing most of the code base themselves. They write the front-end using frameworks like React and React Native in the early phases of a firm. Before the company hires JavaScript Developers, React Developers, and React Native Developers
CTO vs VP of Engineering_ Who Do You Need_ -  when you should hire a cto or vp of engineering

Because the development team is fewer and the goal is more concentrated, the CTO's experience becomes crucial. It's also simpler to manage a small staff until you reach the stage where you need to scale up. The CTO will put forth the most effort to bring your product to the market. Therefore, it is unnecessary to hire a VP of Engineering at this stage. 


Mid-stage companies often have more cash and staff like machine learning engineers, data engineers, or data scientists than their early-stage competitors. A VP of Engineering is useful at the point when the firm has some funding. A firm also needs a VP if it's seeking minimum viable product development of its product concept. 


Getting a VP of Engineering on board makes more sense for businesses at this stage. Why? Because you already have a defined business strategy. The firm has a clear technological roadmap and a clear set of objectives. 


If the organization is becoming more complicated, it's necessary to bring on some new individuals who can manage this complexity. And hiring a VP of Engineering would make sense because the team of engineers will need to be addressed, scaled, and organized.

Where Can You Find CTOs And VPs of Engineering? 

You can find competent CTOs and VPs of Engineering in tech marketplaces and communities. New startups in the early stages can locate strong CTOs and VPs of engineering when they attend tech events; examples of these events are contests, seminars, and workshops. 


However, Tech platforms with marketplaces are the go-to and popular platforms for CTOs and VPs of engineering recruitment because they provide trusted and properly vetted tech professionals to fill your desired tech roles.


Additionally, they serve as an online trade show where you can connect and communicate with tech professionals, making it easier to find your much-needed tech professionals. Because tech professionals are grouped according to areas of expertise. So, with tech marketplaces, all the heavy lifting of vetting professionals and their credentials is done for you. All you have to do is take your pick from the best tech professionals that will be an excellent fit for your company.


The comparison between the CTO vs. VP of engineering is noteworthy. They are both important to the growth and development of a tech company in terms of vision, strategy, and responsibilities. Ultimately, selecting the ideal role needed to be filled in your company depends on your preferences, aims, and management needs. 


Although, it may be tempting for founders to hire someone who can perform both responsibilities to save costs. However, this strategy may backfire in the long term. It is essential not to overstretch a professional to perform two roles because this leads to employee burnout and poor execution of tasks, which will cost the company more. In the end, both positions are critical to your startup's success and growth. And the roles should be filled according to your startup’s stage and needs. 

Robert Krajewski

Robert is a co-founder of Ideamotive. Entrepreneur, who with passion spreads digital revolution all around the internet. Mentor and advisor at startup accelerators. Loves to learn and discover new business models.

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