Hybrid CTO of Hardware and Software with Anh Nguyen

By Published On: February 19, 2019Categories: Blog, Podcasts, The CTO Studio

What is it like to handle both hardware and software development needs? Anh Nguyen is a hybrid CTO of hardware and software and she’s here tell us all about it.

Anh is the CTO of Creative Electron where they build imaging systems that use creative electrons for the purpose of inspecting samples for defects. On today’s show she’ll explain how their equipment works, what she thinks about the state of women in tech today and her journey to the United States from Vietnam when she was a child. Hear that and more on today’s CTO Studio.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • Do their products create image renderings in 2D or 3D?
  • Are their offerings all custom-made? Why or why not?
  • How does their annual preventative maintenance work?
  • What was it like to participate in Hacking for the Homeless?
  • Why women should embrace being women CTOs and not just CTOs.
  • And so much more!

On of my first questions to Anh is whether they are mostly a hardware company or a software imaging company. Anh responds by telling us what her CEO likes to say: “What we are is a software company that delivers our product in a hardware box.”

Although that sounds like something a sales person would say, her CEO actually has a background in EE and an MBA. He has come up with a lot of their ideas and how they have productized those ideas.

He works with her and their COO to come up with solutions that work for their customers.

Who are those customers exactly – who makes up their customer base? PCB manufacturers, electronic manufacturing services. She goes on to explain how their products work and why they are safe to use without protective gear!

My next question was about her responsibilities as CTO. Does she preside over a hybrid of hardware and software? Yes. Because software is managing the hardware they are very intertwined. As far as what hardware is going to be used and how things are integrated those decisions are all under the software stack. Anh and her team make suggestions on what is compatible or not.

We dive into the world of X-rays a bit deeper including Anh’s explanation of how their imaging systems work in a variety of settings before talking about her journey to becoming CTO.

Was she hired to become CTO or did she advance into the role from a different position within the company? She became one. Her original title within the company was VP of Software Development. Then last year she became CTO. They have been growing and because software is so intertwined into their products that originally her focus was on maintaining and developing the software side of things.

But over time her CEO realized they needed to have a tighter relationship between software and hardware. He said it made sense for her to be CTO and to think about new strategies they can deploy and new technologies they can start implementing to grow their software along with their hardware.

Does she have direct reports from both hardware and software? She does and when asked how she manages both she laughs and says you just do it! She says it’s the equivalent of working at a startup essentially. Making good software they do have to understand what is happening with the hardware so managing both hardware and software is a natural evolution. Because they are a startup you just have to dive in and figure things out. The main advice she would give others is to simply do it.

From here we get more into the mechanics of how Anh “CTOs”. She doesn’t have VPs she manages directly. She has three direct reports and then she will also talk to the manufacturing team.

The person who does all of the CAD designs will come to her and her team to ensure everything they are creating can be fully integrated; they all want to be sure the software performs up to the levels the customers need which means having repeatable results and being able to accurately go to any given target.

Do they customize all of their products or do they have some standard products available?

They have some standard offerings, but because they have customers that have very specific defects they look for and everyone wants automated intervention it does become very custom.

Anh explains more on today’s show as well as the state of women in tech today along with her escape from Vietnam as a child. It is truly an American dream come true!

Join us to hear that inspiring story and more on this edition of CTO Studio.

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