Why engineers are still the CEOs we need today

Here's why engineers still make the best tech company CEOs.

Engineers turned company leaders have reigned supreme across Silicon Valley for years.

Startup engineers developing a desirable product or service, scaling it up to meet consumer demand, and suddenly finding themselves at the forefront of a tech enterprise is a common trend. By bringing their unique problem-solving perspectives to leadership roles, many of these engineer executives have become wildly successful.

Lately, however, with the closing of the “move fast and break things” era of management, there’s been some question as to whether engineers are still the fittest people to occupy CEO roles. It’s true that the tech industry is always changing. Likewise, it’s true that every company will benefit from its own uniquely catered leadership style. However, when looking at the state of the tech industry today, it’s clear that the age of engineer executives shouldn’t end any time soon.

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Engineers Make Relatable Leadership for Developers

When motivating the workforce of a tech company, it certainly helps to have leaders who are similar to their engineers.

For instance, just consider the internal turmoil that Microsoft suffered after replacing its original development mastermind, Bill Gates, with business investor Steve Ballmer. By turning away from their previous product focus, the teams operating under Ballmer saw weaker production. Ultimately, company profits declined. Though that wasn’t the only factor at play, such a transition in leadership ideals will always have an impact on a company.

Meanwhile, cooperative teams of engineering CEOs who focus on the product and COOs who manage the financial side of things, have shown massive success in similar models. Looking to Microsoft again, when COO Jon Shirley worked alongside Gates’ expertise, the company performed powerfully and saw tremendous growth in its financial infrastructure.

Engineers are Generally More Ethically Progressive

The increased potential, and consequently, the responsibility that modern technology brings means that society needs forward-thinking action from tech companies.

This is important not only to maintain ethical conduct for the greater good but also in maintaining the public’s favor. Just look at the backlash and protests that Amazon is receiving for recklessly pushing dangerous facial recognition technology into plainly malicious hands.

Unlike many sales executives who put the money they’ll make before anything else, engineers tend to be more socially conscious. Presumably, this all stems from developer culture’s general tendencies toward cooperation, autonomy, fairness, meritocracy, and desire for social progress.

That’s not to say that engineers are impervious to moral corruption. There are plenty of examples of ugly behavior from the group out there. Generally though, it’s the engineers of an organization who will consider their conscience within the corporate world.

Thriving into the future

Yes, the technology industry faces many unique challenges. However, if current examples mean anything, engineers are still incredibly well-suited to handle them.

Other perspectives and CEO backgrounds commonly lend to success. That doesn’t mean that it’s time to start doubting technologist CEOs just yet.

After all, we’re breaking into brand-new, cutting-edge technologies that are shaping the world in enormous ways. Ensuring the performance and responsible use of these gadgets and frameworks is essential. There is no one better to provide oversight than the engineers who built them.