Alexander Wolf
Alexander Wolf

What is it like being a CTO of a Shopware-focused agency?

Published at Feb 4th 2024
  CTO @ 8mylez
   Büren, Germany

What is it like being a CTO of a Shopware-focused agency?

Interesting, challenging, sometimes scary. I think it is not much different from the CTO position of other industries, but I really like it.

At the beginning, we were too small to even think about roles or positions like this. But as the company grew bigger, we were also required to do the same. With more developers or employees in general, you need more structures and defined processes to ensure everyone know what and how to do it. As a developer oriented agency, this is even more important.

So a big part of my job is to create, optimize and monitor the way we work with Shopware. The goal is not only to create solutions based on Shopware, which is sometimes really easy, but to create great solutions.

Besides that, I also need to have an overview of new Shopware features from a technical perspective. Since we are focused on Shopware, we can optimize for only one system, which allows us to go really deep in the core code. That way, we try to do things the "Shopware way" to integrate in the whole system.

What are the biggest challenges to overcome for such a position?

For me, it was the switch to the position. Being a developer for years has an impact on the thinking or mindset. It helps a lot to improve the problem-solving skills, but it's complete different to the CTO position. As a CTO, you have to deal with people a lot, not mostly code. So one big challenge for me was becoming a people person and improve my communication skills.

Another challenge was the availability. As a developer, I used to close the door for hours or days and focus on my coding work. Often I even didn't talk to anyone, which is for me a good way to work on coding tasks. Shutting everything down around me and concentrate on the task. As a CTO, I have to be more available, because there are questions and ideas that need to be discussed with other people.

The technical side was no big change, since I already develop with Shopware for some years now, which made it easy to teach other developers or consult our customers. Of course, I have to keep up with the latest developments and trends from Shopware.

I think it's important to understand that the CTO is not just a Senior Developer, there are a lot of different tasks. But to make that switch in my head was not easy.

Making the switch however also helped me to communicate with the developers, because I exactly know how they think, feel and understand or see problems. It's the same way I used as a developer.

Do you continue to code in order to keep up your Shopware skills? If so, how do you balance coding with other important skills like leadership or decision-making?

Yes! Coding is essential for me to keep developing and fine-tuning my skills, but to have fun at work. Coding is not just a job, as cliché as it sounds. It's something I really enjoy and hopefully can keep doing in the future. Balancing everything is not easy, but possible with good self-management. Usually I block my morning time for coding. And having the meetings and CTO related tasks in the afternoon. This way I can focus and concentrate on the coding tasks. Of course, there are days when it's not working like that, but I try my best to plan my week ahead.

To make the right decisions from a technical point of view, I think it can help a lot to actually know what the developers are working with. That is another reason why I try to code myself.

There are also events or days when I can code a prototype or try to bring an idea to life with code. That means days full of coding, sometimes even a week, which makes me really happy.