In 2017, data is an immensely complex subject. The most obvious technical challenge is the sheer scale of the data powering your product. The bigger struggle however, is creating a vision for how your company can put the data it has to its best use. This requires asking, if technology and cost weren’t obstacles, what would your company be doing with your data to help put out the best imaginable product? When you know that answer, you have to start challenging the long-standing assumptions that are keeping your business from achieving that vision. It goes beyond choosing the best technology and letting everyone in the company figure out how to use it. Great companies shape the technologies they use around their business needs. Making the issue even more complicated is just how many different potential data solutions are out there and the pace at which all of these technologies are advancing. Alongside managing an entire department, a good CTO today is up on the cutting edge of subjects like machine learning and data technology, and is well-versed enough to see through common recommendations rather than moving with the pack. It’s a huge job.
Inertia is a massive struggle facing any growing organization. There comes a point, as a company crosses into a certain size, where it’s simply not so easy to get things done as quickly anymore. Procedures are developed. Small companies, on the other hand, can often move and pivot more quickly simply because they’re smaller. The decision making process is a shorter and the lag time between decision and action is minimal. There’s no time for holding back, because delays can be fatal and your company has to put a premium on getting stuff done. As Credit Karma has grown our technical leadership has been crucial in protecting against this, standing at a critical point in the organization where business processes, cross-functional efforts and policies all overlap. In any company, technical leadership needs to resist trying to clear out challenges one-by-one and instead work on easing bigger inefficiencies and future-proofing the company.
For any company in 2017 and especially those that have built a product on consumer data, security is a major concern. Every tech company today regardless of size needs to be vigilant in the face of the myriad potential security threats on the Internet. Security is a technological issue that can also easily become a reputational one, so it is important for tech companies to appropriately address it.