A Tech Lead is a senior developer that ensures that every team member understands the product's technicalities.
Who Is a Tech Lead
A Tech Lead (or a technical lead) is a senior leading role for a software engineer. A Tech Lead is a decision maker and is necessary in bigger companies where the roles and skills are not easily interchangable. Tech Leads ensure that all team members understand and follow major technical decisions. They set the programming guidelines, most used libraries and technologies. They also play a management role - they guide the team with company values and help to resolve conflicts. Tech Leads also have to understand the needs of the customers and prioritize work according to those needs.
There can be one Tech Lead per team, or one Tech Lead for the back-end and another one for the front-end. The role can be performed by someone who has the most knowledge about development. It is less a formal title and more about being a natural leader of the team. The role can be shifted between different team members according to the project that the team is working on, but each project has to have one Tech Lead.
Why You Might Want the Tech Lead
A good Tech Lead is:
- Great at organization and vision
- A productive member of the team
- A software engineer who still codes
- Able to suppress their ego and admit their mistakes
- A team player who is proud when other team members succeed
- Involved in critical decisions but not all decisions
- Able to empower other team members to make decisions
- Delegating the work effectively
- A mentor for newer team members
- Available and approachable
- A mediator of technical decisions
Problems the Tech Lead Solves
- Bad product-market fit
- Demotivated team
- Unsuccessful product
- Unhappy clients
- Disconnect Between Business and IT
- "Not My Problem" Mentality
- Toxic Team Culture
How to Implement the Tech Lead
- It is important to find a Tech Lead who is not only interested in technical details about your product, but also in the newest technologies. They should have a desire to educate themselves continuously in new technologies. Tech Leads should not be too conservative.
- The best circumstances for finding a Tech Lead are when the team realizes itself that the Tech Lead is needed. The Tech Lead should be a person who is naturally respected and trusted within the team.
- Consider the size of your company: do you need one Tech Lead for everything? Do you need a Tech Lead for each framework?
- Allocate enough time for the Tech Lead to keep up. The added value is low if they spend most of the time developing. On the other hand, it is important that the Tech Lead still codes and, therefore, is still an active and an improving developer. According to Patrick Kua (Chief Scientist and former CTO at N26, the Tech Lead should code at least 30% of the time.
Common Pitfalls of the Tech Lead
- The Tech Lead spends too much time coding.
- The Tech Lead is from a different team and does not have sufficient product knowledge.
- The Tech Lead is a synonym for an enterprise architect.
- They are just ghost Tech Leads, and they cannot keep up with the work. In such a case, there should be more Tech Leads, each product can have its own Tech Lead in a big corporate company.
- The Tech Lead makes all the technical decisions. They become a bottleneck in the team and the other team members might feel demotivated.
- Being too focused on the technical part of the job can cause forgetting about cultivating the team culture.
- The Tech Lead is just a friend of someone from a high company position. If the Tech Lead does not gain respect and does not understand the product well, the team can fall apart.
Resources for the Technical Lead
- Always Be Coding: 5 Signs You’re A Tech Lead — Congrats!!
- Codementor Community: 8 Tips for Being a Good Tech Lead
- JPL: Is ‘Tech Lead’ an actual role on the team?
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