The Engineering Leadership Podcast · Episode 82

The Evolution of a CTO: How Your Leadership Can Change through Hypergrowth

with Ryan King & Clarence Chio

May 03, 2022
To grow your engineering team from 200 to 1,200+ you can expect many phase changes in your org. How might your role change and what can you anticipate? Ryan King (Co-founder & CTO @ Chime) and Clarence Chio (Co-founder & CTO @ Unit21) explore how Ryan’s role has evolved across Chime’s different phases of growth over the last 10 years! You’ll hear how team topologies changed, how they hire senior leaders/VPEs for different phases of the company, how goal setting changes, and other great insights to help you scale your org to the next level!
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Ryan King (@ryanking) is the co-founder and chief technology officer of Chime. Ryan was previously VP of engineering at Plaxo, an early professional social networking pioneer that was acquired by Comcast Interactive Media. Ryan also held senior engineering roles at Liberate Technologies and Microsoft. Ryan earned a BS in computer science & engineering from UCLA, and an MS in computer science from Stanford University.

"There are a few things that I have come to have strong opinions about... One is, teams should own their own domains, services and data. You got to own full-stack your domain. You want to minimize coordination between teams and dependencies on teams. And then something that gets often overlooked as you scale is... aligning the organization with the architecture. The organization's growing, the architecture is evolving, but you have to consciously align those two things if you want to maintain a highly functioning engineering team as you grow...”

- Ryan King


Clarence Chio (@cchio) is the co-founder and CTO at Unit21, a Google-funded startup in San Francisco building tools to fight fraud, money laundering, and online abuse. He authored the O’Reilly Book “Machine Learning & Security” and is also an adjunct lecturer at U.C. Berkeley, teaching a graduate course on the same topic.

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  • Ryan’s story of how Chime first started (2:00)
  • How Ryan’s role as CTO changed over time (4:17)
  • How Chime’s engineering org structure & team topologies evolved (6:37)
  • When should you deviate from your existing team structure? (9:06)
  • When do you know you need to bring in a VP of Engineering? (10:23)
  • How did new VPEs build trust and credibility when first starting? (14:32)
  • How does Chime set goals today? (16:14)
  • How do you measure engineering team and org performance? (19:22)
  • What Chime does different to hire great engineers (23:03)
  • Final advice for engineering leaders running teams who have yet to find product-market fit (27:20)
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