On this episode of CTO Studio, we talk extensively about CTO authority versus CTO leadership with Michael Bastos. Michael was the CTO of a San Diego company called LocalStack before moving to Austin, Texas to run the benefits API team for the VA’s web site.
Having been in positions of leadership and authority in the civilian world and in the military, Michael joins us to talk about the differences and similarities in each. We also dig into the Austin tech scene and what it’s like to work for two CTOs in his current role. Join us for those topics and much more on today’s CTO Studio.
In this episode, you’ll hear:
- When do you need to have uncomfortable conversations about leadership and authority?
- What two books changed his entire career path?
- How did he transition from being a CTO to working under another CTO?
- Why negotiation is very much a part of leadership.
- Do leadership and authority both require high risks for high rewards?
- And so much more!
My first question is about the Austin tech scene – what is it like these days? He says it is different, not from a negative perspective. In San Diego he has watched the tech scene grow and he knew the people who worked hard to make it what it is today. It became one person helping another person, everyone lifting each other up.
But Austin has a lot of big, established companies already so it’s harder to have that same close-knit feeling to others in the tech scene. It’s much harder to get that same feeling because there are established businesses plus others coming in from San Francisco.
There are differences among technology leaders in Austin too, some are doing old things and others are doing new. The old tech is still valid and still enterprising, but you also have new tech showing up like GraphQL. And those two worlds don’t mix all that often.
Next we talk about his transition from being a CTO of local San Diego company and then he moved to Austin to take a position as the Head of Engineering for a real estate startup. Now he is in a role with a company that is building VA.gov’s API.
Having been a CTO, he now works for another CTO in a contracting role and is running the Benefits API team for develooper.va.gov. They are building out VA’s entire external API infrastructure for VA’s new external system. Among other things, it allows outsider contributors to come in and build applications for veterans and the like. As a veteran himself, he especially likes being involved in a project like this one.
What are some of the main apps that he sees being built or is it too early to tell? They have everything built already in terms of infrastructure. Originally the project started out as Vets.gov and then it did so well over time that they basically took over the VA.gov site. It’s a pretty well established project now, they have full CI and deployments. It is mostly Rails-based and for the most part everything they do is public.