Today I had the honor to interview Edouard Kombo, a consultant CTO for many firms who also created #respectMyCode, a think tank dedicated to only 12 CTOs around the world. The initiative is strange, so I dug more into the profile of his founder, and discovered he also created some design patterns, interesting open-source projects, but has also a really deep managerial background with his own singularity.
Edouard, can you tell us more about your background?
Sure. I’m an African-European born in Congo from a dad engineer, and a mother teacher. I spent my first 5 years in Congo, then 4 in Gabon, 7 in Ivory Coast, few months in Montreal, and 14 years in France that I joined at the age of 16, thanks to a twist of fate, at the death of both my parents.
Due to my orphan status, I got my french nationality at the age of 18. No money to pay an engineering school, my only assets were my computer, my ambition and my willingness to learn by myself.
Thanks to my ambition and energy, I was placed lead developer in all the companies I’ve worked for in Paris. In 2016, the call for an international career has been incredibly felt in my heart, so I pursued my career in the small Maltese islands where most of the worldwide gambling companies operate. There, I stepped up as a development team leader before rising to interim CTO as a consultant, twelve years after my beginnings.
Diversity of cultures and people, that’s my trademark.
During my professional life, I spent 11 years in extremely fast-paced and tough environments, and the last three years had been dedicated to human empowerment and executive leadership.
Really tedious journey, congratulations!
Thank you, therefore it’s a journey like many others. It only starts to look like a solid career, only 14 years after my beginnings.
I inadvertently discovered you through your think tank #respectMyCode, can you explain what it is?
A canal of influence in the world of tech. 13 mind-blowing C-level executives thinking about how to simplify hiring processes, popularize remote working, improve talent retention, and thinking about many other subjects.
Why did you have this need?
Well, my generation is slowly dying, and I’m only 33 years old. The new one has a different vision of the work environment, more access to information and training than we had. Therefore, we’re still facing hiring issues, devaluation of the image of a developer, retention problems. #respectMyCode gives a voice to this new generation and will help to better serve the profession.
You talk a lot about serving and influencing, is that a management style?
I think a management style should not be immutable, but context driven. One of my best mentors, who gave me my shot as a development team leader in Malta, said, “there are managers built for war and others for peacetimes”.
While this is so true, he forgot the third category, “Peacetimes managers driven by war”.
Someone who experienced war in various contexts can maintain peace in various contexts, by adapting his management style.
The third category is the most valuable one, and believe me, it’s not that simple.
Why isn’t that simple?
Sometimes you have to drive your teams to do something they don’t want to do because it’s critical.
If you fail, Grant Cardone, one of my other mentors said, the market will punish the undisciplined people, and it’s going to be ugly.
How do you drive your teams to do what they don’t want to do?
Oversimplification is my methodology.
I give valuable people what they truly want and can’t find elsewhere, to receive a willingness to die for me.
For developers, what they want is recognition, purpose, and freedom. They have to do something rewarding for their career, their family, anywhere they want, when necessary. This solution only works in digital, it won’t be the case in other industries like automobile or construction.
Many executives would have said you have to lead by example, inspire respect, be a role model. Don’t you think like them?
I want to think by myself, the biggest mistake you can do is not to be hard on yourself, and live the life of someone else.
Sometimes. giving a solution without its context may be dangerous.
“Leading by example” may means, taking a decision everybody in the company contests, but a decision proven to be efficient months later. During this process, loneliness, fear, and rejection are always collected before gratitude.
How to advise someone to “lead by example” in this context? A wiser approach is to know what your customers, your teams, truly want, develop your personal vision, and serve your teams the best you can.
Why? Because at the end of the day, your teams serve your customers.
What is exactly the role of an interim CTO?
The interim CTO is here to bootstrap a team in a growing company with uncertainties, build workflow foundations and pass the torchlight to the future permanent one.
Why did you choose this interim way?
I needed to focus my time on recruiting, building, coaching and empowering, nothing else. It helped me to challenge common concepts, create #respectMyCode, gain incredible experience, and power.
Sounds extremely coherent. Your background built you for war, how did you learn to be an executive built for peacetimes?
By becoming better at recruiting, connecting and understanding developers. When two people understand each other, communication is less noisy, vision is executed more efficiently, they care about each other.
Therefore, the transition from war manager to peacetime manager took some time and a lot of effort to change my vision.
The evolution is visible in my blog posts.
Now, I’m using my war experiences to be a peacetime manager most of the time.
Why did you focus on executive management rather than coding?
I have always been dreaming about being a top executive, that’s what drives me, I can’t explain it.
All days and nights, I’m seeing myself driving a whole organisation. It’s a vision that never left me.
What is your next step?
Connect with a company facing intensive people problems, but with extraordinary possibilities, and take control as CTO or COO.
Carlos Ghosn said the crisis is an opportunity to deliver incredible value. Hopefully, my background prepared me for such contexts.
Are you still coding?
Yes. I enjoy working on my opensource projects and playing with new technologies.
You talk a lot about Carlos Ghosn as an inspiration. May I call you the “Tech Killer”?
What Carlos Ghosn achieved as the CEO of the alliance Renault/Nissan/Mitsubishi is impressive. So for years, I’ve been studying the best parts and actions of the character.
I don’t want to live his life, but I wouldn’t mind disrupting my own profession. So yes, I wouldn’t mind being called the “tech killer” in the future, maybe, ah ah ah.
Image credits: geoawesomeness.com