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InfoQ Homepage News NYC CTO Summit Emphasizes Soft Skills for Tech Leaders

NYC CTO Summit Emphasizes Soft Skills for Tech Leaders


The Wheelhouse annual CTO Summit was held last week at the Nasdaq building in New York's Times Square. This was a full day conference targeting CTO's and engineering leaders in every industry, and presented by CTO's past and present.

Although this is a technical conference the topics selected were less about any particular technological discipline and more about soft skills, such as how to gain support for your idea, or how to deal with internal conflict. Nonetheless there were some tangential discussions involving specific technologies.

Several of the talks referred to "Conway's Law", a sociological aphorism positing that the design of a software system will reflect the social structure of the organization that produced it, which, for example, implies that "if you have four developers writing a compiler you will get a four pass compiler" according to Uber engineering lead Raffi Krikorian.

The show consisted of about 15 topics, 20 minutes each, including:

  • Dealing Elegantly with Organization Change by Camille Fournier, former CTO Rent the Runway
  • Driving Technical Change by Terry Ryan, developer advocate at Google
  • How your organization is killing your software by Raffi Krikorian, engineering lead at Uber.

InfoQ spoke to conference cofounder and organizer Peter Bell about the goals of the conference.

InfoQ: Can you please give us a little background on the conference?

Peter Bell: The Wheelhouse/Nasdaq CTO Summit is a full day, single track event where engineering leaders can connect with and learn from their peers.

I was the CTO of a number of tech startups, ran engineering at General Assembly, present regularly at national and international tech conferences and am an adjunct teaching digital literacy at Columbia Business School. Cofounder Nikolai Chowdhury has spent his entire career in technology - most recently at a global technology consulting provider. Nikolai has been a hands on developer and dev lead but also holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.

InfoQ: What motivated you to create this?

Bell: I co-founded the New York CTO school, which is designed to help grow the next generation of engineering leaders and I’m lucky enough to be a member of the New York CTO Club where many of the top engineering leaders in the city meet every month. But I felt we were still lacking a marquee event where engineering leaders could spend a day out of the office and connect with and learn from their peers. Software is eating the world, and as engineering leaders we run the teams that are writing that software. Best practices for running engineering teams are out there - but they are not broadly distributed. The goal of the summit series is to fund expansion of CTO schools around the world and eventually to build an international network of engineering leaders connecting with and learning from their peers. The summit series is really just a hobby. My day job is building and running, but it’s such an important mission that we’re excited to continue to build the series and eventually to build an organization to help us to scale and connect more engineering leaders.

InfoQ: How has it changed or evolved to where it is?

Bell: The summits only started last year, but already we have run 11 events in 6 cities around the world (New York, Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco, Melbourne and Sydney). It’s still very early days but I’m really excited by the quality of both the speakers and the attendees. Last year we sold out the summit series and presented over 100 amazing talks from senior engineering leaders representing companies including Twitter, Stripe, Snapchat, Coinbase, Chef, GitHub, Atlassian, MongoDB, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Groupon, Tough Mudder, CustomInk, Spotify, Amazon, Condé Nast, Computech, comScore, Australia Post, Cisco and Oracle amongst many others.

InfoQ: What are the selection criteria for speakers?

Bell: We select experienced engineering leaders who can quickly and concisely share actionable information for improving your engineering organization based on their real world experiences.  

InfoQ: Who are the attendees?

Bell: All of our attendees are technical and responsible for managing software development teams. Job titles vary, but most are a CTO, VP of Engineering, Head of Engineering or Engineering Manager.

InfoQ: Where are your venues, what are your expansion plans?

Bell: We are very happy to partner with the Nasdaq for our Marquee New York event and are working with partners around the world to bring this event to a range of cities including London, Berlin and hopefully Tel Aviv and Toronto next year.

InfoQ: Thanks Peter, it was a great day. Do you have any parting comments for our readers?

Bell: If anyone would like to be involved with the series ( in any way they should drop me a line -


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