From Engineer and Developer to CTO with Jesus Lizama

By Published On: April 9, 2019Categories: Blog, Podcasts, The CTO Studio

It’s no small feat to go from the second developer in a company to its CTO, but one man who is up to the task is Jesus Lizama of Studio 3. Jesus is joining the CTO Studio to talk about his career progression, as well as what it’s been like to live here as a DACA recipient.

Jesus is an engineer who has become CTO of Studio 3, a rapidly growing agency. In fact, his agency is growing so fast they are doubling their revenues every year! They are now a two-time Inc. 5000 company.

Today you’ll also hear about how he is managing his team through this tremendous growth and what he’s learned along the way. Plus he has a very special story to share on the topic of immigration and DACA. Listen in for that and more on this edition of CTO Studio.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • How has being CTO changed things for him?
  • Does he still see himself as a developer?
  • Where did he had to grow the most after becoming CTO?
  • Why does his team choose their own tools?
  • How did switching to Slack and Airtable help his team?
  • And so much more!

We begin our conversation with a discussion about Studio 3: Studio 3 is a all-encompassing marketing company. They specialize in digital marketing, but also do print, and other media. If you have an idea and you bring it to them they can give you a product.

Prior to joining the agency, he was going to college and was working at the university as a math mentor. He was on break and he wanted to start programming. He went out on Christmas Eve and decided to try to get a job in the field. He sent out a bunch of resumes through Craigslist and that is how he landed at Studio 3!

Right away they threw him into a project and had him build a web site. He started at a time before mobile responsiveness was really big, but he had them build for that and he changed a few other technologies he knew would be helpful. After a year or so he became lead developer and the company kept growing. The company now employees sixty employees, ten of which are engineers.

What about becoming CTO – how did that transpire? It all started during a meeting he had with HR, the person he was meeting with asked him where he saw himself in five years. He replied honestly telling her he saw himself as CTO of this company in 5 years.

It turns out the CEO of the company at the time was thinking the same thing. The CEO took him to lunch a week later and he told Jesus he wanted to make him CTO. A few months later he became CTO.

He says now that he is CTO it hasn’t changed much for him, hierarchies are non-existent to him. The main difference is now he is involved in the company’s strategy, and that is something he is still learning about.

What about his nomination for 2018 CTO of the year by the Los Angeles Business Journal – has that changed anything for him? It was amazing, he says he felt like he didn’t belong! He was among big name CTOs: the CTO of the LA Clippers, Los Angeles’ CTO, Playboy’s CTO, Verizon’s CTO and Disney’s CTO, etc. At the dinner for the nominees he sat at a table with LA’s CTO and he had a great conversation with the Clippers’ CTO. He was nominated again for 2019!

Also on today’s CTO Studio, we dig into his actual experiences as CTO a bit more, I asked him to share the first obstacle he had while CTO.  One of the first tasks he was given was to build a reporting platform. His background is primarily building web sites, which were mainly static or perhaps had a few business logic components involved but not too many. A reporting platform on the other hand is a full-on MVC application!

In addition to being the CTO, he was also a developer so there were a lot of technologies he had to grasp very quickly so he could build an MVP. After many iterations and a year later, they finally had a working system  that was useful for the company.

Changing directions a bit, we talk about how his mom came to the United States and why she left Guadalajara. We talk about the realities of being stopped at border crossings and traveling through the airports as immigrants, and how DACA has shaped him and what most people misunderstand about the legalities of becoming a citizen via DACA.

We wrap up with his thoughts on the tech scene in LA and how he’s seeking a community there. Join us for those topics and more on today’s CTO Studio.

MVC Application (Model View Controller pattern)

“very quickly so he could build an MVP”

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