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Joel, the founder of ModernCTO Podcast, and I have been talking on and off for 3 years. Both of us building out our own visions, it had become somewhat of a ritual to check in on each other’s progress. So when I reached out to Joel in October of this year, I had no idea we were about to embark on a very special partnership together. I simply wrote, “I have an idea” to which he responded almost immediately, “Perfect, I can give you a call now or in an hour”.
That sums up the way he works. He is in the now. Present with you every step of the way. We talked about our desire to serve the larger technology leadership community and with the stars aligned, we realized that our worlds could collide in a very beautiful way. So we immediately started work on what a partnership between our organizations could look like. We found a wonderful sweet spot.
We call it ELEVATE – the #1 Technology Leadership Community on Earth. This community is an expression of our desire to build the strongest, the healthiest and far reaching technical ecosystem on the planet. 7CTOs continues to provide intimate, accountable forums focused on personal and professional growth as CTOs while ELEVATE reaches a wider audience of technology manager and senior engineers who are earlier in their path to becoming CTOs, VPs or founders. It all fits beautifully into the ecosystem that cares about people, their growth, prosperity and well-being.
Ever since I founded 7CTOs in 2013, I’ve had an easy time describing the value proposition of peer mentorship groups to CTOs and CEOs of rapidly growing tech companies. I also had an easy time describing the origin story (check out the video if you have 7 minutes). The harder part, was landing on a ‘give back’ strategy for 7CTOs that felt true and authentic to me while also building a commercially viable organization for technology executives. And in much the same way as 7CTOs was born, I landed on the idea of forming the New Technical Fund.
It started with a debate I was having with fellow 7CTOs member, Alan Leard around the ‘T’ in CTO, which colloquially stands for Technology. He was arguing that the CTO needed more of another ‘T’ in their lives, that being ‘Technical’ exposure, alignment and growth. It made sense because as our roles change, we tend to lose touch with the ground swells of where technical innovation is going. And with that, we could all do with new technical skills.
While our conversation was in the context of a podcast idea, I immediately latched onto the term ‘New Technical’. It felt so right to me and in a way, put the long awaited bow on the ‘give back’ idea swirling inside of me. But before we put the bow on it, I first have to go to a Starbucks meeting I had which gave me an unexpected gift. A gift in the form of Scott Graves, another fellow 7CTOs member.
Scott was talking through the immense value he was getting from 7CTOs and, like a true visionary, pontificating on the leverage and power a network like 7CTOs could bring to the world. I really enjoyed the conversation because I don’t often get to hear raw praise like that. We discussed the conflict I felt building 7CTOs as a company with commercial viability, strength and nimbleness to withstand the ebbs and flows of people in their roles as CTO while also focussing on benevolence and making a dent in the world by ‘giving back’. I’ll never forget the moment when he looked up from his coffee and asked me, “Why does it have to be the same thing? You should just form a non-profit that has the sole purpose of pooling the resources in 7CTOs to make a dent in the universe!”.
And just like that, Scott’s idea of not trying to make it one thing, and Alan’s idea for technical skills gave me the two puzzle pieces I needed to complete the idea for giving back. So today, after many months of educating myself in Charitable Grant organizations, donor advised funding and wrestling with the IRS, New Technical Fund is birthed as a 501(c)(3) in California with myself as Managing Director and Beth Rehberg as the Secretary. What this looks like exactly is an untold story. But with this blog post, the preface is written and I can’t wait to look back with fondness, many years from today to see what we have accomplished since then.