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CTO Journey: Lucas Hendrich's Path to Leading Global Engineering Teams

CTO Journey: Lucas Hendrich's Path to Leading Global Engineering Teams

If you ask Lucas Hendrich, an engineering degree is useful, but not a necessary requirement to find success in tech.

Lucas is a good example. He’s CTO of Forte Group and has a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy. In his 20+ years working in the industry, he connected with lots of peers and industry contacts with similar liberal arts degrees.

How a philosophy degree helps with Software Engineering

Lucas believes that liberal arts degrees help people learn, adapt and become adept in different areas of technology. In college, Lucas’ study of philosophy was all about rigor and discipline around thought and applying techniques of thinking to solve specific problems. 

This academic focus has been quite useful in Lucas’ career solving engineering problems. His philosophy degree helped him develop and refine his critical thinking. Lucas believes that critical thinking is an underappreciated discipline these days.

It’s not a far stretch from solving engineering problems. Critical thinking is underappreciated as a discipline. 

Developing a passion for building software

Lucas’ first experience with computers was when his dad bought him a Commodore VIC-20 personal computer. He started writing code in the BASIC programming language. He coded a Tic-Tac-Toe game and created a separate application to make chunks of ASCII characters move across the screen.

In school one time, his teacher punished Lucas, ordering him to write the same phrase over and over. Lucas interpreted the punishment as a PRD and wrote an application. He loaded the program onto a floppy disk, inserted the disk into a PC and sent his “punishment” to a dot matrix printer.

For Lucas, it sparked his interest in automation. Years later, that interest would emerge in his passion for DevOps, which developed as a grassroots movement, rather than an overly formalized discipline.

 

First job out of college

After graduating with a philosophy degree, Lucas got a job at a regional bank. He was placed in a management trainee program, which rotated participants through the different parts of the organization. At the time there were several openings in the Management Information Systems (MIS) group. 

They had mainframes and Microsoft-based servers that didn’t talk to one another. Learning on the job, Lucas learned to write code to connect the mainframes to the Microsoft servers. He wrote code in Visual Basic and made database queries to SQL Server databases. He also taught executives how to use Excel and build macros.  

Transitioning from individual contributor to IT leader

In the year 1999, “Y2K projects” involved the review of applications to ensure that bugs or catastrophic failures didn’t occur when the year changed from 1999 to 2000. Lucas was chosen to be the technical project manager of his company’s Y2K project. He held primary responsibility for the success of that project.

During one project, Lucas clearly remembers a conference room full of people with stern looks on their faces. They were trying to solve a technical problem, but became stumped. Everyone was frowning. Lucas stood up, walked to the whiteboard and drew a diagram. His diagram made the problem easier to digest and understand. It helped turn the tide in solving the challenge.

And that’s the moment Lucas knew he had transitioned to become an IT leader.

More recently, Lucas read the book “Scaling People: Tactics for Management and Company Building Hardcover” by Claire Hughes Johnson. While reading the book Lucas saw how scaling a team and putting processes in place is like assembling an operating system. It’s a fascinating challenge to him. Also, helping people get to where they want to be in their careers and helping the organization get to where it wants to be – that’s highly rewarding to Lucas.

Success = Motivation + Domain knowledge

Let’s take two people:

One is 85% proficient in a programming language, with 15% motivation to succeed.

The other has 15% proficiency in the same language, but 85% motivated. 

Lucas prefers the individual with 85% motivation, because they want to learn and improve. Lucas prefers to find people with this level of motivation. He believes that having people stretch their limits can unlock a lot of talent. 

In addition, domain knowledge within your industry is critical. It’s just as important – and perhaps more important – than knowledge of the programming language you’re using. Domain knowledge can only be acquired by working on the job. The most advanced technologist is going to have to spend a lot of time understanding the business problem they’re looking to solve. Without that context, the code they develop will be ineffective because it’s not solving the right business problems.

Fun facts about Lucas

Things that team learned about Lucas:

  • He has a Master’s degree in Economics
  • He’s reading a book about financial intelligence so he can better read financial statements
  • He lived in Argentina for 12 years. His wife is from there and his children were born there
  • He’s an early adopter of remote work
  • He was the sole employee working outside the office and used a Vonage VoIP application to make calls to his colleagues

Note: This post is based on a podcast interview featuring Lucas on the “Dissecting Popular IT Nerds” podcast. We’d like to thank Doug Camin for having Lucas on the show.



 

 

 

 

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