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7 Questions with Mark Batty
7 Questions with Mark Batty
Name: Mark Batty
Current title: Fractional CTO
Current organisation: PAYG CTO
With over 30 years of experience developing B2B software products and services, I launched www.paygcto.com to offer fractional CTO services. Specializing in commercially focused technical leadership, my mission is to help start-ups in building and delivering MVPs, while providing strategic guidance to emerging scale-ups, enabling them to achieve sustainable growth and scalability.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
In today's software-driven world, I firmly believe that the key to success lies in leading, organizing, and growing businesses in a radically different manner compared to our industrial-based ancestors.
The primary challenge I face is shifting the mindset of others to embrace more flexible processes and techniques. To effectively compete and thrive in the modern dynamic world, we must adopt a flexible and outcome-oriented business model.
While many organizations have embraced a more flexible approach, there is still a substantial gap to cover before fully leveraging the advantages of a dynamic and abstract way of working.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I began my journey in software engineering before the advent of the internet, dedicating 18 years to refining my skills in this field. Building on this foundation, I transitioned into technical management within global corporations, gaining invaluable experience over a 5-year period.
I then embarked on a dynamic path, serving as a CTO in start-ups, scale-ups, and SMEs for the last 9 years, honing my leadership skills and deepening my understanding of the challenges faced by early-stage organizations.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
As a fractional CTO, my daily activities mirror those of a full-time CTO but are split among different clients, each at different stages of maturity. My day begins around 05:30 with an espresso, before heading to a local coffee shop to catch up on industry news and read 2-3 books simultaneously. This helps to gain diverse perspectives and discover surprising connections between unrelated topics.
By 09:00, I settle in my home office where I check important messages and conduct a general disaster check of systems, staff, and customers. I then catch up with engineering, gaining a technical overview and often engaging in detailed discussions to guide architecture, steer development, and coach best practices. Following that, I have conversations with the CEO, department heads, and relevant customers and partners to gain business insights. I can now provide strategic advice to the business or make small adjustments.
As the technical face of the company, I make strategic decisions, collaborate on product management, and communicate strategy in various meetings. My primary responsibility is aligning business objectives with product development and customer experience. I finish around 17:30 and exercise regularly, often with my wife, then enjoy cooking dinner, to unwind for the evening.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
I have high standards and can be impatient, once a decision is made, I want immediate high-quality results. In my early leadership days this caused some challenges and I have since learned the importance of balancing high standards with effective communication.
As a leader it is crucial to be self-aware to understand my strengths and weaknesses to ensure effective interaction with colleagues and staff. By setting challenging targets and fostering a supportive environment that values continuous improvement, we can encourage growth and learning without the fear of failure.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
“The Wicked Company” by Marcus Kirsch is a thought-provoking book that traces the origins of traditional management and organizational structures back to the industrial revolution. It reveals how these outdated approaches fail to address the complexities of the modern, technology driven VUCA world. The book aligns with my own observations and ideas of business and leadership.
By embracing a more abstract, reality-based adaptability, we can revolutionize the world of business to make a positive impact for everyone. There are two technology focused books that have made a great impact: “Accelerate” by Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble and Gene Kim; and “Team Topologies” by Manuel Pais and Matthew Skelton.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
This requires leading by example and promoting human-centred empathetic leadership. While some natural leaders are easily identifiable, it is important to actively monitor and develop everyone we are responsible for. Those who exhibit leadership qualities but lack the confidence or gravitas are guided to expand their knowledge and understanding of leadership, encouraging them to shift focus from “how” to “why”. This enables more innovative and abstract thinking, empowering them to find patterns, reasons, and alternatives to achieve objectives.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
A recurring theme is after recruiting or inheriting team(s). I explain my role is to make their job easier and encourage honest feedback. Trust and confidence grow quickly which leads to pushback on practices and priorities; my decisions are respected, if not always agreed with. Eventually there is a light bulb moment when the team(s) learn and understand from both a technical and commercial perspective the reason for certain decisions. The greatest reward is when individuals thank me for the protection and support that allows them to grow and improve.