Head of Engineering vs. CTO: What's the difference?

Head of Engineering vs. CTO

In some companies, the discussion regarding the head of engineering vs. CTO is still being defined. But these positions still have distinctions in terms of the role they play in a business. Learn more about the top-level jobs further.

In a common software development organizational structure, the chief technology officer is the visionary. On the other hand, the head of engineering is the hands-on manager of software developers and other technical teams.

To learn more about the differences between the head of engineering vs. CTO, read the discussion below. Let’s cover the following topics:

Head of Engineering vs. CTO: Overview of Distinction Between the Roles

The software development industry is a dynamic market. Trends come and go in a blink of an eye. Hence, companies are not only competing against each other’s brands. But, they are also running after time and consumer demands.

That is why most organizations need the chief technology officer and head of engineering to work together. Now, when does the scope of responsibilities for a CTO ends? And when do the duties of the head of engineering begin?

Head of Engineering: Leader At the Front Line

From recruitment to people management, it’s this leader’s job to keep the team in check. Moreover, the head of engineering is responsible for client satisfaction by ensuring that products and services meet the client’s expectations. 

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Now, in some companies, the head of engineering is also called the vice president of engineering. The position directly reports to either the CEO or the CTO. However, there are also organizations where the position occupies the director of engineering seat. 

Either way, the head of engineering always plays an active role in software development and other project tasks.

Chief Technology Officer: Techie In Chief

Since the 1990s, the tasks of the chief technology officer have evolved. But one thing remains indispensable for this executive: the CTO ensures that the company keeps up with the trends. The position is also known as the chief technical officer in many companies.

The main duty of the CTO is to manage all the tech needs for the organization. These include the systems used for business operations or the tech stack for software development. At times, the CTO also interacts with third-party service providers and clients. 

Sneak Peek on the Job Description: Head of Engineering vs. CTO

As the company grows, both of these managerial roles also evolve and roles change depending on the company. However, while these positions vary, both are pertinent to the business. 

What Does the Head of Engineering Do?

The head of engineering is responsible for the entire software development team. In a big company, the leader works closely with supervisors to complete various projects.

However, in startups and small businesses, it is common for the head of engineering to be directly involved with the whole development cycle. The professional works together with software engineers, developers, and QA analysts. 

Here are common duties and responsibilities that the professional handles.

1. Leader

The head of engineering leads the development team. The position requires the manager to oversee the daily operations of the team. This means that the person leads everyone in terms of software development, quality assurance, and data processing. 

The professional makes sure that the team follows the deadline and every phase meets the client’s requirements. The head of engineering is also responsible for managing manpower, tech resources, and skills development.

2. Strategic Thinker

The head of engineering supports the chief technology officer. How do they do this? As the CTO maps out the vision and tech-related strategy, the head of engineering implements it.

3. Liaison Officer

This position collaborates with other departments for new systems and processes to upgrade the current business technology. The professional also promotes the best tech practices to other stakeholders.

4. Knowledge Seeker

One of the main responsibilities of the head of engineering is to stay on top of trends and cutting-edge tech for the business. In a way, this is a collaborative effort with the chief technology officer. 

Salary Review: Head of Engineering

According to the data released by Glassdoor, the head of engineering in the U.S. has an average annual salary of $193,842. The salary data is based on 79 salary information submitted anonymously to the site.

In contrast with Payscale’s data, the site accounted for the average salary at $153,094 per year. It also stated that performance-based bonuses range from $3,000 to $71,000. This statistic is derived from 56 salary profiles updated on January 5, 2022. 

Key Performance Evaluation Points: Head of the Engineering

The performance of the head of engineering differs from one company to another. It is especially dependent on the size of the organization and the demands of the role. However, here are some things to consider in the evaluation process to see their competencies.

  • Review the milestones achieved by the whole software development team. And then look into the contributions of the head of engineering to its success.
  • List the unforeseen circumstances affecting the business related to software engineering and development. Try to evaluate how the leader handled the situation and assess the effectiveness of the given solutions.
  • Gather the key competencies of the head of engineering. Ask the team whether the leader used these skills to complete projects and other deliverables.
  • Gauge the leadership of the head of engineering. Review whether the whole software development team is working efficiently and effectively.
  • Look into the cost-benefit ratio of the plans and projects under the head of engineering. Evaluate whether the company needs new plans aside from the proposed solutions of the head of engineering.

Evaluating the performance of the head of engineering is more complex than that of a software developer or engineer. However, there are efficient ways to do so. For one, a company can use the tips along with reviewing the person’s job description for the evaluation process.

What Does A CTO Do?

Business thrives on technological advancements for its operations and clients. And as part of the C-Suite, the chief technology officer is in charge of spearheading technological developments for the company. 

Now, the position has an encompassing job description based on company size and the nature of the industry. But there are duties and tasks that every CTO has to perform in a general sense.

The following are some of the responsibilities of a CTO:

1. Chief Innovator

The CTO makes sure that the company takes advantage of innovative technologies for the business. This is especially geared towards the improvement of products and services offered by the organization. 

2. Technical Leader

The chief technology officer is the main driver in terms of planning and implementing tech strategies. This executive has to make sure that everyone in the company is aligned when it comes to tech innovations. More often, the CTO works closely with the head of engineering for tech-related development and innovative tactics.

3. Tech Patent Manager

Has the company invented new technology? The chief technology officer handles the patent portfolio for the business. The executive’s office will file for tech patents and enforce the claim on registered ones. Since patents can be a revenue stream for the company, this role is a crucial one that the CTO must execute properly.

4. Technology Maintenance Overseer

There are businesses that require the use of technology for core processes and operations. Hence, it is the CTO’s job to ensure that every tech asset is well-maintained and functional to reduce downtime. These assets include the company website, enterprise software, and company devices, among other things. 

5. Chief Product Developer

The CTO has to create products and services that cater to gaps in the market. Hence, the chief technology officer has to use competitor analysis, customer intelligence, and other market research data. 

Moreover, the executive must establish strategic partnerships with vendors and other stakeholders. This way, it’s easier to create innovative products since supplies and resources are easily available.

Salary Review: Chief Technology Officer

The salary of a chief executive officer consists of two parts. Aside from the regular compensation, there is also a performance-based bonus.

Data according to the Economic Research Institute states that the annual CTO salary can reach up to $293,424. On average, it ranges from $158,070 to $232,603 per annum, especially for top companies. The institute also projects that the salary of the executive will grow by 16% in 2026. 

Key Performance Evaluation Points: Chief Technology Officer

Aside from the technical prowess of the CTO, companies must also consider other factors. So here are some activities to consider when evaluating the performance of a CTO. 

  • List down the goals set by the company and its board of directors. And then review whether the chief technology officer has delivered them within the set standards.
  • Examine the strategies and initiatives spearheaded by the CTO. Look into their scalability and cost-effectiveness. 
  • Review the existing systems and processes and check their alignment with the business model.
  • Look at how competitive the business technologies are used in the whole organization.
  • Go over the technical challenges that the business experienced in the last 12 months. Check how the issues were handled and addressed. 
  • Study how frequently the company adopts trends and innovations. And check on its return of investment ratio.

Remember to set a standard evaluation period to measure the performance of the executive. Most companies review the performance within a 12-month period. Depending on your business needs and appraisal plans, you can also shorten or extend the review duration.

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How to Become A Leader: Head of Engineering vs. CTO

Do you aspire to become the head of engineering in your company? Or grab the spot at the top as the chief technology officer? These are the ways you can follow to occupy these leadership positions.

1.  Be an entrepreneur.

Most chief technology officers are also founders of a company. So why not open your own business? Or you can invest in a startup and become its head of engineering. 

These options are some of the surefire ways to clinch the top spot on the corporate ladder. This way, you can mold the vision and strategies to realize your own technical goals.

However, before taking the leadership seat, make sure to possess the necessary skills for the position. You want the company to succeed, too—not just an avenue to realize your personal dreams.

2. Earn a technical degree.

Most companies hire professionals who have the relevant educational background. So get a degree related to computer science and information technology. Both the CTO and head of engineering positions require these technical degrees on your resume.

Additionally, companies may also require an advanced degree in the same technical fields. A doctorate or a master’s degree is a competitive advantage. 

Alternatively, a master’s degree in business administration or other management fields can help, too. Although it is not required by every company, it can increase your chances to get the job.

3. Build your experience.

What better way to achieve the CTO or head of engineering job than work towards it? It may take time, but you will get a solid experience that will help you become a great technical leader. 

If this is what you want to achieve, do your best as you become an entry-level employee. This way, you can earn promotions and merit as the years pass by. And as you journey towards the top, make sure to learn the relevant skills and knowledge you can use in the future.

Are You Part of a Company that Needs More Technical Leaders?

If you’re an entrepreneur in need of technical leaders, then talk to Full Scale today. We’re an offshore software development company—our headquarter is in Kansas City, Missouri, with an office in Cebu City, Philippines. 

We offer customized solutions that can fit your business requirements. Whether you need team leaders or software engineers, we have the right people for your project. In just a few steps, you can build your team quickly and affordably. 

During recruitment, every applicant undergoes rigorous technical skills assessment and interview process. So, we are confident that everyone on the team is qualified and experienced. Only the top talent will work on your project from start to completion. 

Take advantage of our software development solutions now. Build your team today!

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