Archives for September 2018

September 6, 2018 - No Comments!

How to Be a Good Tech Leader


As they say, the stronger the team, the stronger the business. But somehow many managers and tech leaders struggle with core management skills and the effective work of their employees. If you're an engineer that accepted a new role - it's time to discover what a Tech Lead job really offers and how to do it right. That's what I did.

A Tech Lead is a mixture of roles and abilities - you should blend your technical expertise with management skills. Easier said than done? I know it may seem hard at first, but with time you'll develop your own style of combining it all.
Your responsibility now is to lead the team of talented individuals - manage their way of work, taks, schedule and possible hazards. You'll be under a lot of pressure now  - but leadership is rewarding (being stressed is completely normal if it's your first Tech Lead role and you have to face new responsibilities).

Tech Lead Main Responsibilities:

  • Maintaining the project technical vision
  • Helping with planning and executing
  • Setting expectations about deadlines
  • Answering technical questions of your team and helping in resolving complicated problems
  • Reviewing the work of other team members and checking its consistency with the project
  • Monitoring team members
  • Giving feedback
  • Ensuring your team understands their roles and tasks
  • Working with other departments

There's many tips worth describing and useful things I've learned so far, but today I want to share some soft basic skills and tested ideas.

Communicate effectively

Solid communication became a common buzzword nowadays. So what it really means for you in practice?  You should learn how to communicate your ideas well and not leave the room if someone doesn’t understand the vision. Being a good listener will help you hear your employees needs and opinions. They need to know you’re a person they can rely on.

What I usually do:
I prepare 1:1 meetings with every team member (one meeting per month) just to talk about projects and expectations. It’s a perfect time to discuss things more freely. After such meeting, you know what should be changed or improved. Most importantly - when done on regular basis it provides you with fresh update.

You’re the bridge between your team and other departments. Choose the right manner of communication and adjust it to various groups of people. The key is to explain technical issues to non-technical people in the way they could understand it without problems.

Find the right members of your team and delegate

Delegating is one of the biggest challenges you'll face when being a Tech Lead, because for a new leader it can be intimidating at first. You won't run away from it though, there's simply too much work do to and you won't be able to do it all by yourself. Delegating means sharing responsibilities and it's a perfect way to empower your team members.

As a leader, you have to recognize the skills of your employees. When recruiting, you should know what you’re exactly looking for. Keep in mind that some developers like to work in long term projects but others don’t. Check their preferences and adjust it to the workflow in your company. When it comes to experience - I think sometimes it’s better to hire an eager to learn person with slightly less professional experience than the other way round. I always focus on the mindset - the ability to think logically and solve problems. 

Choose people that match your needs and your company’s projects.

Play on the same side

If you are not on the same side with your employees, it will never be a sincere relationship. When we celebrate success, we know we did a good job as a team. If something goes not as planned, we work at this together and support one another. You can discuss committed mistakes and work on them in the future. The important thing here is to talk - whether it went right or wrong, it's crucial to discuss the outcome.

Celebrate even small achievements. It’s a trigger that motivates people to think outside-the-box. If you reward an outstanding idea or proposal, you can expect many more good solutions to come. Be constructive but if you don't like a particular idea - explain it with good arguments. You should never criticize a proposed solution without mentioning why. 

Build authority

Making difficult decisions is pretty much a daily bread. Learn how to be a good friend but also a leader. It’s important to separate these two spheres. It does not mean that as a leader you have to supervise every movement of your employees. Trust them. I often come across opinions that if you have a friendly relationship with your employees, they won't respect you enough and won't treat you seriously. I would say it's quite the opposite!

Be a friend, but don't be afraid when making a decision that dissatisfies someone. It will rarely happen that you all think the same way. You always want the best for your team and in most cases - you have the broader knowledge about the project, surroundings and relations.

Code

Leading a software team is also about finding the time to code. When you code, other team members see your commitment and skills in real life. Not to mention that you keep your knowledge up-to-date. Remember that you have to prioritize your tasks in order to not have many things on your mind simultaneously. If so, many of them can be neglected. Finding the right balance between coding and managing is a challenging task. Pat Kua in Taking with Tech Leads advice to follow the 30% rule - which means continue to code for at least 30% of your time. 

As you've worked hard to when acquiring your technical skills, you can also work hard to be a great Tech Leader.

Author: Tomasz Strzebak

Published by: admin in blog