For the last couple of years, I have been a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at a successful communications company. When I arrived in the role, it was my first time at the C-Suite level. I didn’t really know what to expect so I read, learned and connected with other CTOs to understand the role. I was responsible for all aspects of technology, from IT to Data to Engineering, Product and Design. I built an amazing team and we kicked ass. All the accomplishments exceeded my expectations. Ultimately though, earlier this year a change was made. As with most companies, loyalty, history and that sense of family gets destroyed as new people come in and become that new, unproven shiny object. It doesn’t diminish what you and your team accomplished in a relatively short amount of time, but it does hurt at a personal level. But what a lovely ride it was, I loved almost every minute of it.

After leaving, I took some time to really find out what I wanted to do. Luckily, the success we achieved was really good and I could afford to look for opportunities in a number of different spaces. I had a few new CTO opportunities pop up and I was tempted. It feels good to build things, mentor and lead large teams and really continue to grow my knowledge in the tech space. I’ve learned so much over the past 9 years in Austin from so many of my intelligent and talented coworkers and friends. These CTO roles would again put me in position to showcase my skills and build more teams and SaaS products. I also found a few companies looking for VP of Technology or Product roles and although it was exciting, I really started to think about what would make me happy. And then it hit me…

Data. Lots of unrefined, unexplored and growing data at my fingertips. To make sense from random chaos, to build a platform that could support hundreds of millions of dollars of data. From my time as an engineer, I found my calling as a data and visualization architect. I never lost sight of where I want to be, which is definitely back in the C-Suite and I have all the knowledge and skills there but I realized that my real passion is gaining insights, building monetizable and scalable data sets. I wanted to look for an opportunity where I could see this path for myself. Ive always said

Data is my passion and people are my purpose.

That is so true. In addition to finding a role that revolves around data, I wanted to build teams around that data. I love building people up and watching them grow and achieve all the goals they set out. Its also fun to watch people grow into the type of people that lead others. Some of these changes are so remarkable. Its validating for a true leader who cares about outcomes to see these evolutions. I hope some of my previous teams read this and relate to things I did to help them grow and they saw me as a leader they loved working with. I certainly loved working hard for all of them. I thought about a Chief Data Officer role and although I am qualified for that role, there are still important things for me to learn before I would be seriously considered for a role at that level. So, it was critical for me to not only find the right role, but the right company where I hopefully would provide immediate impact.

So, where am I now?

Shiftkey.

From the first time I talked to the team there, I felt good. I originally was looking at Product Data roles and there was none open here at the time. But after talking, there seemed to be a fit and everything just clicked. Fast forward a few months and everything has changed. It is better than I thought it would be. EVERY DAY is productive, insightful, impactful and just feels good. No drama, no company politics, just a company that wants to kick ass and provide the best service to its clients. We are growing (which means more data), my team is growing (if you are looking, email me (john.steinmetz@shiftkey.com), and we have so much more to accomplish. The leaders at Shiftkey are amazing, trusting and supportive. My role? I lead Data and Analytics for Shiftkey and we are in the infancy of big data. Previously Ive lead data teams at big companies that already had most of the infrastructure in place but here, ive been able to architect it myself, start building a team around it and provide insights and data for both growth and reflection. Im also providing my experience in internal data integrations (salesforce, intercom, Twilio, etc) to help accelerate our enterprise growth. It really is so much fun.

I’m not looking back at my choice to move back into an independent contributor role. Honestly, right now I think its one of the best moves I have ever made in my career. I wake up everyday, excited about what we will do today and tomorrow.

I know that I will be back leading at the top strategic level again in the next few years but for now, I’m loving every minute of this journey. I can’t wait to see what will happen tomorrow…