Chief Technology Officers in Automotive Industry Need Tech-Forward Skills

With the automotive industry increasingly driven by technology, manufacturers need tech-centric talent to get ahead of their competitors. Technologists from other cutting-edge industries can bring the necessary expertise to fuel modernization, innovation and revenue throughout the automotive and mobility ecosystem.

In vehicle design, the vehicle “brain” has transitioned from an array of electronic control modules to an onboard computing system that powers nearly every aspect of safety and performance. Manufacturers must prioritize software capabilities to design and run operating systems and find executives who understand how to lead teams in software-defined environments. DHR is at the forefront of this talent shift, helping automotive companies attract, hire and retain future mobility leaders, such as chief technology officers (CTOs).

How We Got Here

The automotive industry has existed as a complex world of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that offer a broad variety of products. Historically, automotive suppliers’ products and solutions have been mostly mechanical with some embedded software – until recently.

As suppliers have added features that enhance vehicle safety, performance and the consumer experience through infotainment, touch screens, Bluetooth, driver assist functions and wireless capabilities, the vehicle of the future continues to move toward electrification, autonomy and connectivity. Today, vehicles are essentially computers on wheels, with automakers like Tesla, Mercedes, General Motors and others reimagining what an automobile can be.

The technical capabilities within a car no longer end with advanced hardware and onboard software. They’ve expanded to the cloud, allowing for data capture and analytics, remote monitoring, predictive capabilities for vehicle service and driver/passenger lifestyle preferences to be accessed inside and outside the vehicle.

The automotive industry may have longer design cycles than other tech-driven industries, but innovation is growing at an unprecedented pace.

And the talent landscape must evolve alongside it.

In the past, established automotive suppliers and OEMs have shouldered most of the burden of driving invention and development. As we look forward, however, tech startups and tech companies are key to bringing fresh and proprietary technologies into the OEM supply base. The pressure is real to keep up with or, more importantly, be out in front of the changes dictated by consumer preferences and demands. These tech companies offer specialized and emerging technologies, often developed outside of the auto industry, that can be rapidly adopted for the automotive market.

The automotive industry may have longer design cycles than other tech-driven industries, but innovation is growing at an unprecedented pace. And the talent landscape must evolve alongside it.

The Automotive Talent Needed Today

A survey by McKinsey & Company and the Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA), found that only about 30% of respondents across 60 automotive companies felt confident they have the right capabilities to respond to today’s trends. With the changes in the technical architecture of vehicles, the pressure for automakers and suppliers to design software efficiently and deliver features that consumers value, while also monetizing data streams, underscores the value and importance of executives who thrive in the fast-paced tech world. OEMs and suppliers are hiring from tech giants like Apple, Google and Amazon for talent to lead their innovation and product road maps.

The race for talent within the automotive industry will continue to expand into the skill sets of software engineering, cloud computing, data science and analytics. Leaders who can apply these talents toward future mobility solutions will be (and already are) highly coveted.

Enter the Automotive Chief Technology Officer

In the convergence of consumer technology and automotive manufacturing, a new brand of CTO is emerging. This leader has functional skills beyond automotive or tech. New leaders who bring differentiating skills and capabilities from other industries can be disruptors when integrating their knowledge into the diversified mobility industry.

Aside from providing technical depth, CTOs that come from outside automotive will need to acclimate to the design cycles within automotive while accelerating innovation for their organizations. Automotive CTOs will deliver on multiple fronts, including leading cooperative partnerships, to compress the innovation cycle. They’ll be relied upon to be strategic business leaders and understand not only how to innovate for the next product features and functions, but also how to create revenue opportunities in the world of software, data and the cloud. The new CTO in automotive will lead through influence, cast a vision and execute in ways that move the auto industry forward.

Key Skills for Future Automotive CTOs

The Ideal CTO Profile is at the intersection of Technical, Business and Cultural Skills:

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