When Apple introduced the concept of mobile “Apps” on the first iPhone, they provided developers with the unique opportunity to sell their creations directly to consumers. And all of the sudden, developers were not just developers, they were business people concerned with all aspects of running a business – marketing, accounting, etc. Many indie developers for all intensive purposes became CEOs.
We did a Q&A with Miguel Valdés Faura, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Bonitasoft, which offers a business process management (BPM) solution. Miguel started Bonitasoft five years ago with co-founders Charles Souillard and Rodrigue Le Gall.
Here he provides his thoughts on as a developer turned CEO.
ADM: Given your expertise as a developer, how do you empower others to take leadership roles in this area?
Miguel: My open source development experience gave me a great foundation for leadership. The philosophy of open source is already team-oriented, and leading a team in an environment where meritocracy is a key value means you need to earn the respect of others through what you do. Empowering others then comes naturally: Everyone contributes, and everyone brings value to the team.
ADM: When do you decide it’s time to call yourself a CEO?
Miguel: That’s a good question. Before we three co-founders launched Bonitasoft as a company, we were already a team working on the Bonita open source BPM project inside Bull. I was the team manager, so it was pretty easy to put on a CEO hat, especially as Charles and Rodrigue naturally slid into the roles of CTO and CSO (Chief Services Officer).
My perspective: You call yourself CEO when you step up to the responsibility of being the CEO, and that had better be as soon as you are ready to commercialize your technology.
ADM: What does a CEO really do, and how can developers live up to the title of CEO, moving beyond the role of a developer?
Miguel: As CEO of Bonitasoft, my primary responsibility is really to keep the cash coming in. That means raising capital, meeting a lot of investors/potential investors and making sure that the vision and strategy of the company is aligned to sell a marketable product. It seems pretty natural to me that the CEO of a technical company comes from a development background. You know the product inside and out, and you understand the technical challenges, so this informs your corporate strategy.
It also helps to have a good “BS meter.” You need to deal with a lot of people at many levels, and there’s not a lot of time and energy to waste. In the open source development world, you learn how to develop relationships with people based on what they do rather than what they say, and that can serve you very well later on.
ADM: Being the CEO of a small company has up and downs and you wear a lot of hats, right? How do you prioritize?
Miguel: In the last five years my role as CEO has changed dramatically, becoming more and more strategic, but my top priorities have not changed. First, I always look to surround myself with the best people possible. I don’t need to be the smartest guy in the room, but I want the smartest people around me. These are the people who will grow the company.
The other top priority is adoption of our product, Bonita BPM. This is the focus of our development, support, sales, marketing, etc. All corporate strategy flows from this.
For me the “right” attitude is, if you have a great idea and you want to build it, then it must become your number one priority – your passion. You must stay focused on what is needed to make it happen.
ADM: How does the change from developer to CEO affect your self image?
Miguel: Why get a big head? That’s not pragmatic. I say, be focused on business opportunities, not on titles.
It’s definitely easy to feel like some kind of hero because you raise lots of money and get widespread adoption for your idea, but that is really ephemeral. Day-to-day life and its challenges, inside and outside the company, is what’s most important. Being CEO is like any job: It’s a role you need to fulfill, and the better you become at it, the better things go for your company.
ADM: Titles are important but are a bit expendable really. Is there an “interim” title developers should be using while they are in the stages of becoming a CEO?
Miguel: Yes, that title is “entrepreneur.” That’s the individual who has the idea and determines how to put together the right resources, people and everything needed to launch and sustain a company. You’re an entrepreneur when you put yourself at risk while you figure out how to be successful.
You may become CEO or you may become something else. There are other critical roles. The job of CEO is not for everyone, and at the end of the day it’s what you are best at delivering that counts, not the title you wear.
Read more: http://www.bonitasoft.com/be-part-it/company
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