CTO Sessions: Jonas Lindeborg, Sinch

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? “I think we’ll continue to see the Chief Product Officer and CTO roles becoming more intertwined as we move forward - the CPTO.”

Headshot of Jonas Lindeborg, CTO at Sinch

Name: Jonas Lindeborg

Company: Sinch

Job title: CTO

Date started current role: September 2017 - after Mblox acquisitions

Location: Malmö/Stockholm, Sweden

Jonas Lindeborg is CTO of Sinch, a cloud-communications for mobile customer engagement platform. Lindeborg has almost three decades of development experience and previously led development teams at Symbian and Mblox.

What was your first job? My first job was in the early, early 90s, when me and two friends left university to start our own software development shop. I remember the first system we built was for a flower reseller importing from Belgium, which used fax to place orders. Imagine?

Did you always want to work in IT? Ever since I badgered my brothers to co-fund a Vic20 home computer in my early teens I’ve been fascinated by the tight loop of create-reward in programming. I remember when I realised I could use my Vic20 to make my own games, this was something I found far more interesting than playing 2D Space Invaders.

From that day on, I found the process of creating and building things really energised me. A passion which is still absolutely true today. So yes, I think a career in IT has always been my calling.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I hold an MBA in Leading Innovation, from Stockholm School of Economics, the specialisation courses were focused less on bean counting and more on entrepreneurship.

I like to think being able to understand the challenges and requirements of business, combined with my programming and tech background, enables me to understand the needs of our customers and translate needs and ideas in both directions into helpful software.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. After the initial startup with friends, and working silly startup hours, I was ready to try the idea of being employed and took a job with ABB/DaimlerChrysler at the time doing safety critical software for train control systems. I spent most of the 90s developing compilers and CAD systems.

I spent most of the next decade heading up Symbian’s development team in Sweden, overseeing its growth from 4 to 500 people. Before leaving in 2008 for a push messaging startup, MashMobile. The company was acquired by Mblox in 2010, where I went on to become CTO.  

Mblox was then acquired by CLX Communications in 2016, which rebranded as Sinch in 2019.  

What type of CTO are you? I’d describe myself as being focused on the business problems to solve while I think my coworkers would describe me as detail oriented when it comes to solutions and software. I’m always interested in how things are working across all of our teams and like to understand what’s going on under the hood. That’s how I stay credible, hopefully.

I’d also say that I was something of a conduit, spending most of my time talking to people, solving problems and keeping things on track.  

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? I think the potential of Machine Learning (ML) is huge, so it’s exciting to be part of a company which is investing in ML and leading in the development of chatbots and Natural Language Processing (NLP). It’s about using ML and AI to help facilitate positive interactions - whether that’s on messaging, voice or via a chatbot.

Also, serverless computing. I think the notion of seamless integration between software and hardware and the way the environment is changing for software development is fascinating.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? Blockchain - it’s a solution looking for a problem in many cases. Obviously, the crypto currency use case is very relevant, but we have seen a lot of people trying to find the next big use case.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? I’m really proud of Sinch’s machine learning enabled Conversation API, which enables enterprises to deliver customer engagement across more than fifteen messaging channels (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, etc) including SMS.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? Sinch is a native digital technology company, so our technology and APIs help thousands of businesses to transform customer experience by using omnichannel messaging, AI and intelligent automation to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

Still, we are very much working on internal digital transformation in the way of further automation of our own business processes, both customer facing ones and internal ones. So yes, I’m very involved mostly by means of the Enterprise Architecture team I’m running.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? One big challenge we’re helping brands and businesses to solve is how do they move from one-way communication to two-way conversational customer engagement.

We enable this through technologies including our Conversation API, Contact Pro - our omnichannel cloud contact centre platform, chatbots and conversational marketing solutions.  

For example, we help to power banks who engage with customers through chatbots. So every customer can instantly start a conversation 24/7 and complete business transactions.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? We develop technology solutions for our clients. We ensure these solutions are aligned to their business goals through understanding and translation. That ability to translate between what a big enterprise customer needs and what our development team can deliver is one of our strengths.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? Trouble or challenges is why we have engineers I guess. I don’t think we have fundamental problems more than anyone else in the industry but more interesting challenges when it comes to engineering very cost efficient and scalable services, this is a very important aspect in our business since the load on our services can vary a lot.  

What makes an effective tech strategy? An effective tech strategy should be no different to an effective business strategy. A good development team should relish the opportunity to help solve your business challenges through technology.

Secondly, you have to have tech leadership at the very top of the organisation to mediate between business goals and the reality of implementing the solutions needed to support those goals.  

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? I think we’ll continue to see the Chief Product Officer and CTO roles becoming more intertwined as we move forward, with more companies hiring Chief Product and Technology Officers - the CPTO.

The CTO role will also evolve more to include tackling cost of ownership challenges by helping companies to understand the value of acquiring companies with strategic technology assets.

What has been your greatest career achievement? I have two, if that’s allowed? During the 00s I was leading a team that launched the first Sony Ericsson smartphones the P800 and P900, which were amazing handsets at the time.

Then during the Mblox years (2010 - 2016) - we acquired a company and managed to completely change the cloud platform and migrate all the customers in flight, without a single major customer interruption. That was a massive team achievement.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Look forward, not back. We learn - that’s what’s exciting.

Covid was a blessing for remote working and distributed teams, but we should have done this before and used the technology that was already widely available. But you can never underestimate the importance of getting people together. Tech is all about people.

What are you reading now? Principles: Work and Life, by Ray Dalio. I can really relate to his principle of brutal transparency.

Most people don't know that I… like to drive an old Lotus Super Seven on race tracks.

In my spare time, I like to…Drive my Lotus Super Seven. The car’s completely analogue which is what I like about it, as driving it feels like a complete departure from my work life.

Ask me to do anything but… Gardening. Especially digging in the garden. No thanks.