Empowering Tech Leadership: Insights with Noah Cantor on Navigating the Digital Age | Leadership Talks

Welcome to our latest blog post, where we explore the intricate relationship between technology leadership and innovation through our captivating podcast series, Leadership Talks. Hosted by Martin Rowinski, the co-founder and CEO of Boardsi, this series provides a platform for thought leaders to share their insights on navigating the challenges and opportunities at the intersection of technology and leadership. In our current episode, we’re thrilled to feature an enlightening discussion with Noah Cantor, a renowned CTO coach at CTO Craft, technology advisor for MyEd app, and the force behind Noah Cantor LTD.

Noah Cantor brings a wealth of knowledge to the table, with his remarkable expertise in systems thinking, agile methodologies, and executive technology leadership coaching. Throughout the episode, he offers a deep dive into how understanding and leveraging the dynamics of technology ecosystems and leadership can drive systemic growth and impactful leadership in the digital era. His experiences in enhancing the capabilities of tech leaders across New Zealand and globally provide listeners with a unique perspective on the psychological and systematic aspects of tech leadership.

The conversation with Noah is not just about his professional achievements but also about his personal journey of growth and transformation. He discusses the pivotal moments that led him to shift from traditional management approaches to a more agile, customer-focused strategy. This narrative of change underscores the importance of aligning leadership practices with one’s core values and the needs of the team and organization.

Moreover, Noah and Martin delve into the psychological underpinnings of tech leadership, exploring how understanding human motivation and psychology can be crucial in fostering a productive and innovative work environment. They discuss the challenges tech leaders face, such as dealing with demotivation, technical debt, and the need for operational excellence, and how these can be overcome by creating practices and environments that reflect the leader’s and the organization’s core values.

This blog post and podcast episode are essential for anyone interested in the fields of technology and leadership, offering actionable insights and inspiration for leading authentically and purposefully. Noah Cantor’s journey and insights underscore the significance of psychology, agile thinking, and the human element in tech leadership. Join us on this enlightening journey to discover how you can nurture tech ecosystems and lead with impact, inspired by the wisdom and experiences of Noah Cantor. Whether you’re an established tech leader or aspiring to step into a leadership role, this episode is brimming with valuable lessons on innovation, change management, and making a meaningful impact in the tech world.

Noah Cantor, a tech leadership coach, shares his journey from struggling as a first-time tech leader to discovering his values and developing an effective leadership approach. He emphasizes the importance of empathy and understanding others in tech leadership. Noah discusses common challenges faced by tech leaders and the need to balance technology skills with emotional intelligence. He also highlights the significance of systems thinking in transforming projects and teams. Noah offers advice for aspiring tech leaders and shares his favorite tech gadget. He concludes by discussing the importance of combining data-driven insights with gut feelings in making strategic decisions.

01:45Background in Technology and Systems Thinking
04:02Challenges Faced as a Tech Leader
07:50Struggles as a First-Time Manager
09:40Discovering Personal Values and Leadership Approach
12:10Coaching Tech Leaders
17:16Common Challenges for Tech Leaders
19:35Balancing Technology and Emotional Intelligence
22:13Advice for Aspiring Tech Leaders
25:15Impact of Systems Thinking on Projects and Teams
30:25Favorite Tech Gadget or App
32:31Historical Figure or Tech Visionary to Meet
34:14Innovation vs. Tradition in Tech Leadership
36:07Remote Work vs. In-Office Environment
37:49Data-Driven Insights vs. Gut Feeling

#TechLeadership #DigitalInnovation #LeadershipTalks #NoahCantor #TechnologyAdvice #AgileMethodologies #SystemsThinking #ExecutiveCoaching #LeadershipImpact #TechEcosystems


Martin Rowinski (00:03.395)
Welcome to Leadership Talks, where we delve into the essence of technology and leadership with industry trailblazers. I’m your host, Martin Rowinski, co -founder and CEO of Boardsi, a platform where innovative leadership meets cutting edge governance. My journey has been one of a connecting visionary leaders with transformative roles. And today we’re exploring the nexus of tech and leadership excellence. Joining us is Noah Cantor.

As a CTO coach at CTO craft, technology advisor at MyEd app, and the driving force behind NOAA Cantor LTD, NOAA’s expertise spans systems thinking, agile methodologies, and executive technology leadership coaching. With a rich history of empowering tech leaders in New Zealand and beyond, NOAA embodies the fusion of technology leadership.

psychology and systematic growth. Together, we’ll uncover the pathways to nurturing tech ecosystems and leading with impact in the ever evolving digital landscape. Welcome, Noah.

Noah Cantor (01:18.398)
Thank you, Martin, it’s great to be here.

Martin Rowinski (01:21.097)
Awesome. So you’re in New Zealand, right?

Noah Cantor (01:25.982)
Yes, yes I am. It is 9 .30 in the morning here.

Martin Rowinski (01:28.103)
What time is it there?

Martin Rowinski (01:32.681)
Okay good, perfect. I don’t have to feel bad.

Noah Cantor (01:35.486)
No, not at all.

Martin Rowinski (01:39.561)
I’m sorry.

Martin Rowinski (01:45.737)
Okay. Awesome. So let’s get started real quick. Can you share how your background in technology and systems thinking has shaped your approach to leadership?

Noah Cantor (01:59.518)
Yeah, of course. So first, before I do that, I’d like to thank you for having me on the show. I appreciate the invitation and I look forward to sharing what I know with the audience. So hi, everyone. I’m Noah. As Martin said, I’m living in New Zealand. I’m a tech leadership coach and I help tech leaders who struggle with demotivated staff and teams that struggle to deliver and significant technical debt. And they often feel overwhelmed.

Martin Rowinski (02:06.661)

Noah Cantor (02:29.098)
stressed and frustrated. Now, the, by working with me, they engage team members, enable operational flow and improve quality and performance, which leads to reduced staff turnover and absences. It creates adequate time for strategy and business management and allows them to show up with clarity and authenticity and purpose. And I came to that through my own journey. So when I took my first

real tech leadership role. It was in a truly agile software company. And I really struggled because my background had nothing to do with agility. It was very traditional. And I remember coming home to my wife and talking about how difficult it was. I told her that if I survived the transition that I was going through, it would be great for me and I’d be better off for it. But the core of the actual issue was that pretty much everything I thought I knew was wrong.

So I’d been taught that developers couldn’t be trusted. And that was why we had testers and test environments. And that was why we didn’t let developers support their own systems. I’d been taught that everybody has to have a bug tracking system because developers write bugs. And if you don’t keep track of them, it will be impossible to track all the rework that you’re having to go through. I’ve been taught that people outside the development team knew what customers wanted and understood customers in a way the team never would.

because developers don’t care about other people mostly. And that was actually kind of the standard approach when I was first getting started in technology about 20 years ago. And so I took this new job and there were no agents that acted on behalf of or as intermediaries for the customer. Developers spoke directly with them anytime they needed clarity or needed to better understand something. There was no bug tracking system.

Martin Rowinski (04:02.377)

Noah Cantor (04:27.486)
because bugs were triaged as soon as they were identified and they were either fixed immediately or it’s not worth ever fixing this. And more than that, almost no bugs were ever written. So we didn’t need a bug tracking system. Our developers deployed directly to production on a daily basis and they were incremental changes that developers or that customers got to use immediately. And that was clearly very different from what I’d been through.

And I had none of the tools necessary to thrive in an environment like that. And some days I wondered why they hired me. It was so different from what I’d experienced up to that point that I was lost. Like every day I had to face yet another idea that was in conflict with my assumptions about how things had to work. And every day, the ways that I tried to manage people, just they didn’t work.

So I felt lost and honestly, I felt scared to admit it to my boss, because I thought if I said that to my boss, it would indicate that I was incompetent or I was a bad hire. And it wouldn’t result in me getting help adapting. It would result in me losing this job that I really wanted to do well. So I repeatedly used approaches that had worked for me in the past or which I’d seen my bosses do in the past, but the creative results that I didn’t understand.

And I didn’t understand them because I didn’t understand the environment I was in particularly well. And so I did what I think a lot of people do, which is while I felt a significant amount of stress, I tried to learn what to do differently. I read books, I read articles, I spent a significant amount of time online looking for answers.

And almost everything talked about what practices I should be doing, but not why those practices were valuable. They didn’t talk about the underlying reasons that you would, they recommended following a particular process or they didn’t, and they didn’t talk about how they drew the conclusions they did. And so why they were telling me to do things didn’t like was never clear.

Noah Cantor (06:46.206)
And so every manager, every advice that you receive, every kind of guidance that you come across has a set of assumptions underneath it that leads to the approach that they’re suggesting. And they never talked about that. They never talked about this is why technology, why we think you should do this, because this is how technology teams have to work. And my experience that I was going through in that moment.

was that technology teams don’t have to behave in any particular way. Like I’d gone from complete opposite directions between one job and essentially over the course of a weekend to a new job. And that, like that difference, like the lack of explanation, the lack of understanding made it really hard to take those processes and make them work for me. So I did again, what a lot of,

I think leaders do, which is I led based on how I’d been managed in the past. And I combined a whole bunch of different styles and approaches that led to behavior that was inconsistent and inauthentic on my part and really confusing for my team.

Martin Rowinski (07:50.599)

Noah Cantor (08:01.214)
And so a few of the senior managers tried to help, right? They would give me advice or they would give me processes I could follow or things to try out, but they also didn’t understand what mattered to me and they weren’t explaining their assumptions. And so despite the fact that they were fabulous managers in their own right, and I really respected them, their help made me worse. It made my frustration worse. It made me more inconsistent and it increased the actual pain the team was going through.

Martin Rowinski (08:24.489)
Oh boy.

Noah Cantor (08:30.174)
And I felt kind of overwhelmed and stressed all the time. And that made things even worse for my team. And it was years later that I realized I was not a good first time manager.

And so what I learned over time as I got more experience was the things that I valued and the things that really mattered to me were actually really well aligned with the environment I found myself in. So what I’d actually been missing wasn’t tools and techniques. What I was missing was a clear understanding of what it was that I valued and how I could use those values to then create an approach that worked in that environment. And the truth was, once I understood that,

I could create approaches that would work in almost any environment and I could identify environments that would or wouldn’t be a good fit for me. And what really actually changed things and what helped me turn the corner was luck. And for me, luck was enough. A lot of people don’t get lucky. So while working for the same organization, I had two very lucky conversations that exposed me to things that I had no insight into previously. In one, I was introduced to…

some ideas around psychology and human motivation. I was introduced to the book Drive, and I’d never really thought about why people did what they did consciously. And in the other conversation, I was introduced to the impact that environments and circumstances and systems have on our choices and our behaviors. And I really loved both ideas. They both really resonated with me. And I went off and I devoured dozens of books on the topics. And during those studies,

the things that really mattered to me became clear. And those were essentially helping others and being open.

Noah Cantor (10:18.622)
And what I find really interesting now, as I look back, is that I knew how much I enjoyed helping others and how important that was to me when I was 16. But between 16 and 18, I had convinced myself that I didn’t like people and I didn’t care about them that much. And that kind of led me to see…

Martin Rowinski (10:30.727)

Martin Rowinski (10:38.505)
Ha ha ha!

Martin Rowinski (10:42.697)
That’s why he became a tech guy.

Noah Cantor (10:45.214)
That was actually a big driving factor in why I became a tech guy. That’s exactly right. Um, and so I sought isolation in backend tech systems, and it wasn’t until I was nearly 30 that I rediscovered this about myself. And so once I understood that those were the things I valued, the changes became much easier. Right. I expanded my studies and I shifted my focus from trying to control people and make them do what I wanted them to do.

Martin Rowinski (10:47.977)

Noah Cantor (11:12.958)
to creating environments in which people can do their best work. And then I did that as a tech manager there. I did it as a consultant after I finished working there. I did it in organizations that shared the same struggles that I did. I did it as a senior leader. I kind of just progressed over time through senior leadership and consultancy, kind of co -founding my own organization. And I’ve filled a whole bunch of different roles in those, you know,

than 10 years that followed that discovery. And every new experience helped me better understand how my values could be used to create systems and policies and practices and behaviors that matched what mattered to me and what the organization needed. And so over the years, I’ve coached many tech leaders through that journey that I went on and helping them discover ways to lead and manage that are aligned to their beliefs. And I mostly did it as part of something else I was doing.

So developing managers or consulting with leaders. And it turns out that that combination of technical ability and hard won knowledge and actually really caring deeply about people made me surprisingly well suited, at least to me, to helping others go through it. And so time after time, when I, when I included coaching as part of my work, the team performance improved, organizational performance improved.

And so after seeing that pattern play out over the course of 10 years, I chose to do it full time and struck out on my own as just as a coach first and worry about the organization. Once people are in a much better place to actually help the organization out. So I took those years of experience and pain and I focused on the core challenges that I’ve repeatedly seen. And I built coaching program aimed at people at tech leaders and helping them.

better understand themselves and their environment so they can be more effective and less stressed. And that means that their teams become more effective and less stressed. And actually that means that by helping one person, I end up helping many people, which is actually a big added bonus for me.

Martin Rowinski (13:25.449)
Yeah, that’s awesome. Would you would you say my next question was going to talk about common challenges? Would you say what you went through personally and what you used what you went through personally to develop your strategies? Are those some of the common challenges you’ve seen technology leaders go through?

Noah Cantor (13:46.046)
So I see kind of two broad schools or two broad sets of challenges that leaders go through. So one is the, I’m an individual contributor and I’m really good technically. And what I would like is to be a manager and then a manager of managers and then look after an organization. And those skills are all very different. At each of those different levels, what you need to do is very different.

And the people who get promoted into management often do it because it’s the next part of their career path is they see it or their organization doesn’t have any more progress for them to make. But what often goes along with that is they get promoted and then their organizations don’t provide support in developing those skills that they need. They don’t help them understand what kind of leader they want to be. They don’t help them understand what leadership kind of means. And with knowledge work in particular,

Leadership can mean lots and lots of different things. And a lot of it is based on what the leader is actually trying to achieve and what they value. And so there’s this massive skill gap between individual contributor and looking after people first. And a lot of people really struggle to cross that gap. And then there’s, okay, well, I need to, I’m going to need to go from creating an environment to looking after people that create environments.

And then that’s a massive skill gap. And then the next one is I need to go from, you know, looking after people that create environments to looking at what the business actually needs and the challenges that it has. And the, you need increasing amounts of people skills and different people skills as you move through those different stages and less and less of your individual contributor skills. But lots of organizations don’t help people develop those. And so they continue to rely on the things that worked for them and they do their best.

much like I did, you know, picking practices and hobbies and behaviors off a shelf, essentially saying, I should be doing one to ones and I should be doing annual reviews and I should be telling these people to do that. And it’s just, it becomes this kind of amalgamation of different things and none of it feels coherent to the people on the receiving end of it. And so that that’s one thread. And those people struggle with developing their people skills and understanding the need.

Martin Rowinski (15:44.841)
Ha ha ha.

Noah Cantor (16:11.838)
to really understand themselves before helping others. And on the other side, there are people who come at it from a people perspective and they’ve really understood people and they get into these leadership roles and they are suddenly faced with looking after people with a deep technology capability. And they’re left frequently with a feeling of, I don’t know this stuff. Am I qualified to actually look after these people?

And that often comes up because they don’t recognize the difference between the individual contributor, as I identified before, and the looking after people as a core skill as you kind of grow and become more senior. And in their case, they’re often struggling with imposter syndrome, thinking about, well, how can my teams respect me? How can my teams kind of listen to what I have to say if I don’t have a shared context with them?

And it’s kind of helping them understand how their people skills are valuable and where those matter and where they’re useful and how to use those skills to support the teams to do well that actually becomes really important. And so those are kind of the two threads that I see and they both lead to the same place, which is.

Excuse me. They both lead to the same place, which is people that are in leadership positions really struggling to figure out whether or not they’re the right person for the role or figure out whether they have the skills necessary or really just understand that environment they’re in and how to be effective.

Martin Rowinski (17:49.289)
Would you agree and I’ve heard this before from other CTOs, some of the stuff you just mentioned towards the end, would that fall into like an imposter syndrome where they they’ve reached that level, but they lack those skills and they feel like they shouldn’t be there?

Noah Cantor (18:11.358)
So in some cases, yes. But the interesting thing about the interesting thing about imposter syndrome is that it’s often not based on reality. It’s based on this deep -seated doubt that, you know, in spite of having all the skills and knowing I have all the skills, I can’t do this. And so it’s more a psychological issue as I see it rather than a skills issue.

Martin Rowinski (18:29.373)

Noah Cantor (18:39.646)
And so there are some people who really struggle with that and it inhibits their ability to perform. And a lot of the work that I do with them is help them understand where their capabilities are and that actually they are capable of doing that, doing that work. But there are plenty of others who never had the opportunity to learn the skills and grow that skill set. And for them, it’s less imposter syndrome and more just a real struggle to understand what success in the job looks like.

Martin Rowinski (19:06.281)
Yeah, now I agree with that. I think if they’re lacking anything, it might be leadership skills, but definitely obviously not on the technology side. They they have that part figured out. Right. So maybe the people side, which leads me to next question. How do you balance the technology aspects of leadership with the need for emotional intelligence and people skills?

Noah Cantor (19:35.198)
Sorry, can you repeat that? You broke up there at the end.

Martin Rowinski (19:36.649)
Yeah, so what we just talked about kind of leads me into the next question, which is how do you balance the technology aspects of leadership with the need for emotional intelligence and people skills?

Noah Cantor (19:53.182)
It’s a good question, and it’s one that I think a lot of first -time leaders struggle with because they’ve come from that technical background. But there’s this, in knowledge work in particular, it’s really important to understand that as I become a leader, I am no longer going to be the best at doing the technical things that I used to do.

And so my job becomes less and less about knowing the things that need to get done and more and more about helping others do those things. And so there’s this development, intentional or deliberate development of emotional intelligence, emotional skills and leadership skills that often you take the time to focus on that leads to a sense of loss.

and a sense of kind of fear because what you’re doing is you’re studying a completely new set of things. And as part of that, some of your old skills get stale and those old skills were really reliable for years because they’re what got you to this point. And there’s a, I find a significant fear in letting those skills go or feeling them get weaker or more obsolete or however,

It’s interpreted on the part of the new manager, but the truth is you can’t know all the things. It’s, it’s not possible. And so you have to pick what you want to focus on. And if you want to focus on, you know, maintaining your technical skills, there are ways that you can do that. And if you want to focus on leading and emotional intelligence and developing empathy and learning to understand how the whole organization works and what it needs, that’s a completely different skillset and requires.

significant time and attention and focus to actually do well. And so part of the struggle and part of what happens as leaders grow and take on those leadership roles is kind of the acceptance that they’re not the best anymore, that there’s a good chance they’re never going to be the best anymore because they have to let a lot of those things go in order to make progress in the direction they want to.

Martin Rowinski (22:13.065)
Yeah, no, I agree. And leadership versus writing code are two completely different things.

completely different. What advice would you give to aspiring technology leaders to succeed in obviously this rapidly evolving industry? I mean, especially with AI these days, it’s even evolving quicker than ever.

Noah Cantor (22:23.678)
Yeah, they very much are.

Noah Cantor (22:42.686)
So a lot of technology leadership is about leadership and a bit less about technology. And it’s not completely isolated because I think technology is the only place where you have to take in really take into account and understand that all of the historical technical work that’s been done is still is going to create drag on the things that you want to do in the future.

And so that kind of technical debt, architectural systems, all of that is really important to understand as a technical leader. But the, probably the thing that you want to achieve, the thing you want to understand or take on the most is that you need empathy. Probably the number one skill for aspiring technical leaders or existing technical leaders is empathy. It’s about understanding others.

helping them grow, helping them develop, helping them be successful. And so it’s a real shift from a position of largely developing yourself and that being enough to benefit the company to learning, developing yourself in order to then go ahead and develop others. And that’s probably the single biggest thing I would say needs, they would benefit from focusing on.

Martin Rowinski (24:07.335)
Yeah, so transform from loving that computer to loving people and understanding people just like you understand the code, right?

Noah Cantor (24:15.15)
Yeah. And there are a lot of, there are a lot of developers who are already in that situation, right? There are a lot of modern development practices that involve lots of interactions with people at the kind of the myth of the, or the traditional approach development of, you know, hiding in a corner somewhere in the dark and just developing in isolation that exists less and less over time. As we realize quite how social software development is a practice.

Martin Rowinski (24:44.681)
Yeah, back in my days, they called it stick him in a closet and slide a pizza underneath the door. Keep him going.

Noah Cantor (24:49.89)
I am the less the less charitable version is treat them like mushrooms. I keep keep them in the dark and feed them fertilizer shall we say.

Martin Rowinski (24:57.001)
Ha ha ha!

Martin Rowinski (25:02.857)
Exactly. Can you share an example where systems thinking significantly transformed a project or a team you worked with?

Noah Cantor (25:15.614)
Yeah, yeah, so I was, it’s one of my favorite projects actually. I worked with Make -A -Wish in the UK and they had recently put their wish granting process online, or not their wish granting process, their wish requesting process online and they were swamped with requests and there was a massive increase over what they’d had to do in the past. And they came to me and they asked, can you help us look at our wish granting process?

We have people who try really hard, but they might not be the right people. We have, you know, far more wishes than we can grant. And we need to understand, is it a skills issue? Is it a, is it a mental issue on their part? Is it a, like what, what’s actually going on and how can we make it better? And I worked on a, with a partner on this and what we said was, yes, we can absolutely come in and take a look, but in order to,

understand and improve your wish granting process, we’ve got to look at the whole organization and how it works and how the process fits into the whole thing. And they said, yeah, that’s great. Let’s, let’s do that. And so we went and we interviewed lots of them and we spoke with them and took a copious amount of notes and visualize their entire wish granting process. And when we were looking at our data and we were looking at the system and how all the bits interacted.

it became really clear that actually there was a disconnect between what leadership were telling people and what people on the ground were willing to do. And leadership had told us that was happening, but they hadn’t really grasped why. They had some ideas, but they didn’t really see it. And so when we looked at what people were telling us, we found that actually underneath all of the reluctance to change was one, fear.

because a wish is what is granted to a critically ill child and you want to get that right. And they don’t, and changing has the potential to mess that up. And the other one was that when you spend more time on a wish, it makes it a better wish. And that assumption, once it was raised, it was brought into the open and talked about openly was clearly not true, right? If,

Noah Cantor (27:42.494)
If a critical wish, if a child’s critical wish is for a spa pool, and this used to happen in the UK quite a lot, then the amount of effort you put into buying a spa pool doesn’t make it a better pool or not. If they want a trip to say Disney, then the amount of effort you put into organizing that trip doesn’t change their experience when they get there. Like there are a whole bunch of reasons that that assumption actually falls flat, but we had to get it out in the open first.

And so once we got that in the open, we were able to talk about it and address it and recognize it for what it was, which was an incorrect belief that people actually hung onto because of their fear. And the fear that I mentioned before was the fear that they were going to screw up a wish. And if they screwed up a wish, they would make a kid’s one experience worse. And they were worried both about the experience the child would have and also the reaction they would get from their leadership.

if something went wrong. And so we came up with a series of questions, just three yes or no questions saying that said, if the answer to these three questions is yes, then go ahead and make the change to the process that you want to. And it will, without a doubt, make things better. If the answer to all three questions is no, then don’t make it. And if it’s a mix, then talk to other people who have experience and see whether or not it’s worth making.

and talk through it and explore it and experiment and try it. And those three questions bridged the gap between leadership and people on the ground and address the fear that they had. And it let them start making changes and improvements to their process on their own. Like we didn’t redesign it for them. We just mapped it out so they could see it. And then they looked at it and said, actually, there are a bunch of places we could improve it. And then answered the three questions for each of those places in each of their ideas.

and made a massive change. And so within six months of that work being done, they cleared their entire backlog and they were completely on top of things and felt more comfortable than they had before. And they did it without having to resort to any of the last resorts that leadership had thought they might, such as letting people go or, you know, redundancies, hiring more people, which would have meant more fundraising. So they made all of those changes with the existing people.

Martin Rowinski (29:50.535)

Noah Cantor (30:10.494)
and still got on top of everything.

Martin Rowinski (30:13.545)
That’s awesome. That worked out good.

Noah Cantor (30:17.534)
It was honestly, it was my most fun project.

Martin Rowinski (30:18.089)
So I got a couple of fun questions, I guess you can say. So just to show that you’re a human and not just a CTO. As a leader who’s also a technology enthusiast, what’s your favorite tech gadget or an app that you can’t live without and why?

Noah Cantor (30:25.758)
All right.

Noah Cantor (30:46.622)
So I think this is going to not be what people expect. But the app that I really struggle to do without is actually Threes. It’s the mobile phone game that is really simple. And it’s just about combining numbers. And what I find is that when I play it, it allows me to kind of, it’s like a fidget spinner.

Like it doesn’t require a lot of conscious thought and allows my subconscious to then work on whatever problems I was actually trying to think about. But often I find that if I’m consciously trying to think about something, there’s only so much effort I can put in before I get distracted or before I kind of burn out or want to do something else. But if I can kind of distract myself at a conscious level of that, my subconscious work on the problem.

then it actually is capable of carrying on long, long past the point where I would have stopped. And so that helps me come up with ideas. It helps me create clarity in my thinking. It helps me when I’m trying to write articles or trying to think about, you know, the good questions to ask people during coaching sessions, like this ability to disconnect the physical from the mental, I find really valuable, really, really important to being successful.

Martin Rowinski (32:06.377)
Oh, good. I like that answer. If you could have one hour conversation with any historical figure or a tech visionary, who would it be? And what would the discussion be about? What would you want to discuss with them?

Martin Rowinski (32:29.033)
Ooh, I stumped you.

Noah Cantor (32:31.294)
That’s a good question. And I think I thought about a number of different possible historical figures and a number of different technological figures. But honestly, it would probably be either Albert Einstein or Richard Feynman. And they’re obviously, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Richard Feynman, but he’s a famous peer of Albert Einstein’s scientist.

And they both approached science and math and new ideas from a different perspective than their peers at the time. And I would love to have a conversation with them where I got to explore how they actually thought and how they tackled things and the kind of role that imagination played in doing their work. Because Einstein is famous about thinking about…

He talked about how his imagination was one of the things that allowed him to actually discover a lot of the ideas that he discovered and see quite a lot of the things that he was able to figure out. And I just, I would love an opportunity to sit down and pick their brains and see whether or not there was any, well, of course there is stuff to learn, but see whether or not there was things, there were things that they did that I could adopt that would actually be useful.

Martin Rowinski (33:56.681)
Great. In the world of technology leadership, if you had to choose, would you lean more towards innovation, constantly exploring new mythologies and ideas or traditions, taking to proven and time -tested practices?

Noah Cantor (34:14.142)
So you went silent for that entire question. So would you mind repeating it? Yep, I can hear you okay.

Martin Rowinski (34:18.345)
Can you hear me now?

Okay, so in the world of technology leadership, if you had to choose, would you lean more towards innovation, constantly exploring new mythologies and ideas or tradition sticking to proven and time -tested practices?

Noah Cantor (34:41.95)
So I am by nature, someone who tends to get bored. So I like exploring and doing new things. I like innovation. I like trialing new ideas and new practices and new behaviors. I like taking things from other areas, other disciplines, other industries, and seeing how they work within the one that I work in.

But there are lots of things that work from a traditional standpoint. And there’s not a huge amount of point in throwing out the things that do work in favor of an unknown. So I like exploring, but not exploring everywhere all at once. There are areas where you pick the things that work and you stick with them for a while, while you’re enjoying the uncertainty in another area.

Martin Rowinski (35:30.953)
Got it.

Noah Cantor (35:39.422)
And then at some point that reaches some form of stability and you go explore something else new. It doesn’t, it doesn’t, and I would not be comfortable, I don’t think with trying to change everything all the time.

Martin Rowinski (35:50.633)
Yeah, now that makes sense. Stepping stones.

Noah Cantor (35:54.59)

Martin Rowinski (35:55.013)
With that evolving workplace, what’s your preference? Flexibility and independence of remote work or the collaborative energy of an in -office environment?

Noah Cantor (36:07.486)
So this is a really interesting question for me, because from a inclusiveness perspective, from a kind of allowing work to work for everybody perspective, and from a productivity perspective, I think it’s a no brainer to and to embrace remote work. I actually work remotely. And it works really well. There are

parts of the work that I’ve done in the past where I was a consultant, where it was significantly easier to do some of that work face to face, to get to know people face to face, to forge relationships and connections, because a lot of the work I did as a consultant, people would end up finding confronting. And if they knew who I was and what I was interested in and we’d formed a relationship before doing that, then those…

it was a lot easier for them to accept that I was coming from a place of genuine care and interest. Whereas if I was remote the entire time, they’d sometimes struggle with that perspective. And so I think remote work should be the default, but I don’t think that should prohibit us from working together where we find that helpful and useful.

Martin Rowinski (37:26.281)
Absolutely. In making strategic, and this is last one, in making strategic decisions, what holds more weight for you? Data -driven insights from extensive analytics, AKA big data, or gut feeling and human intuition?

Noah Cantor (37:49.214)
So that feels like something of a false dichotomy. The idea that we can drive all decisions based on data, I think is a mistake. And the idea that we can know what’s right based on gut feel is, I think is also a mistake. The preference that I’ve got is, you’ve got a lot of experience that leads to that gut feel.

Martin Rowinski (38:07.113)
I try to corner you.

Noah Cantor (38:19.294)
Right. And that experience is a varying value, depending on whether you’ve been in the same circumstances that you’re in or whether your gut feel comes from working in different circumstances and just quite how closely aligned they are. But either way it’s way it’s, I think it’s far better to look at gut feel and then validate that with data than, than it is to just go on gut feel alone or data alone.

I think they work better as a combined unit. They work better in synergy than they do in isolation.

Martin Rowinski (38:52.937)
Of course they do. Yeah, they do. I know. But I tried to corner you. I was trying to figure it out. Now, good try, Martin. Didn’t work. All right. So, um.

Noah Cantor (39:00.254)

Noah Cantor (39:05.246)
I think there are, unfortunately, there are no easy answers.

Martin Rowinski (39:11.521)
No, never. Right. So how, Noah, how would people get a hold of you? What’s the best way to get a hold of you? Email, LinkedIn, anything else you want to drop on here? And by the way, have you written a book? I know you write articles, but any books in the future?

Noah Cantor (39:30.11)
There is almost certainly a book in the future. I haven’t got it figured out yet, but I’ve it’s been suggested to me enough times by people I work with that I should write one that I’m starting to take them seriously.

Martin Rowinski (39:43.463)
Oh, good, good. So how do people get a hold of you if they need a CTO coach?

Noah Cantor (39:45.862)

Noah Cantor (39:53.342)
It’s a good question. And I appreciate you asking. So I got to this position through years of pain and experience both good and bad. And I very much am interested in saving people kind of those 10 or more years that I spent stumbling through this and figuring things out. So the journey of self -discovery and

Martin Rowinski (40:14.281)
Ha ha.

Noah Cantor (40:23.614)
becoming a better, happier leader is really important to me. And now regardless of whether it’s with me or with somebody else, if you’re in the situation that I was in, the journey doesn’t have to take years. Like find somebody who resonates with you and go on the journey with them. And now for me, I’d like to offer your listeners like a free one hour consultation so they can start their journey with me. And if during that call, we find that we’re a good fit for each other, then I’ll invite you to…

join the program and we can explore ways that we can work together. And if we aren’t a good fit, I will do my absolute best to give them, give you resources that actually can help. And so listeners can book a call by going to my website, noacantor .com and following the book a call link. So please book a call and, and help me help you.

Martin Rowinski (41:16.871)
Awesome. I will make sure when we publish the podcast, I’ll drop your link to your website in our description.

Noah Cantor (41:24.478)

Martin Rowinski (41:25.737)
Well, thank you very much for spending time with me and let me hit stop on the recording. But thank you for spending time and giving us a bunch of great information and hopefully we can help at least one person out there. That’s the way I look at it.

Noah Cantor (41:40.382)
It’s my pleasure, Martin.

Martin Rowinski (41:46.121)
Alright, I think it’s stopping right now and upload.


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