Do you get a headache if you see unfamiliar roles or titles like Principal, Tech Leader or Engineer Manager in your project? Don’t worry, I had the same issue when I started my journey with the Tech Leader role. Based on my experiences, I’d like to give you a quick glimpse of what type of functions/roles you can encounter if you do decide to go for it. This role, besides being a huge responsibility, despite having to make difficult and complex decisions, can be delightful and fulfilling as well. But it isn’t for everyone so it’s worth taking a look at what type of challenges you will face along the way.
Monitoring The Scope And Progress
I remember a meeting with a stakeholder when I wasn’t well-prepared. Most of her questions I answered with “It depends on…”. Now, I realized that it was typical IT jargon (very professional consultant answer ;), but not specific enough which makes it sound wishy-washy. I should have been better prepared to specifically address the following questions:
- How much time do we have to deliver these features?
- Where are we, and how long will it take us to complete this stage?
- What does the Burndown chart look like? Is it up to date?
- How many bugs do we have, and how quickly can we resolve them? Do we see a trend?
To have better answers to these questions I should have:
- Got the current status from the team,
- Made sure that we have estimates (including assumptions)
- Confirmed team capacity (Christmas was coming, and sick leaves before it 😉
If I had done that, the conversation would have gone more smoothly, but above all, we could have made key decisions from the data that we had scattered around many places. If you are going to talk about the possibilities of delivering the scope within the assumed time, I recommend collecting the necessary data upfront. Only realising upon gut-feelings without accurate estimates, team capacity and milestones, we can be led astray. Do you know the answers to these questions? If you have difficulties, reach out to me.
Once, I had an instructive conversation with my PM about our last review session with the client. I was surprised because I thought the meeting went well. At the last moment, we delivered everything that we promised, and the presentation about new features went smoothly. He complained about my performance because I took too many tasks upon myself. For instance, I completed unfinished tasks like fixing broken Pull-Requests or functionality that didn’t work correctly instead of delegating. What is more, I didn’t even delegate preparing the simple presentation and had to take additional overtime hours. Since that time I’ve learnt how to collaborate with my team members. As a team, we should win together and celebrate our victories together. We build relationships by overcoming obstacles, and every failure strengthens us and, most of all, help us grow. Doing something alone is not effective and doesn’t help to build an engaged team.
Bonus: Subscribing my newsletter will allow you to get my time-tested process of how best to delegate work. If you want to discover the 3 Pillars Of Delegation and how to effectively manage teams like Stephen Covey click here.
As a Tech Leader, I help my team members with defining development plans and point to the right path for improvement and advancement. Working closely with them in good and bad moments on their career path gives me insight into where they are struggling and need correction or succeeding and deserve to be rewarded. To do it right I need to have time for them. Each quarter I collect feedback about my team members from different sources: other team members, clients, stakeholders or project managers. If there were any issues, I use open-ended questions to elicit their thoughts about those specific situations. I always remember to ask about strengths and positive moments during the previous quarter. I try to ensure that the feedback used for evaluation is appropriate to the position held by my team member. For instance, holding a Junior responsible for a Senior’s tasks is not appropriate or fair. At this point, I synthesise feedback from external sources with individual needs and career plans and discuss these during our 1on1 meeting. After years of counselling team members, I realized people with SMART development plans are better motivated and more willing to be challenged.
Bonus: Technical Advisor
After all, this role has the Tech prefix. Recently I had a very engaging 4 hour meeting with my new architect. We talked about many aspects of our application including where he can find Bounded Contexts and detect aggregates, as well as which type of CQRS we use. I pointed out the major drawbacks and shared plans for future improvements. And other than that, chatted about cloud-native, microservices and database sharding. A good understanding of enterprise integration patterns, architecture styles and how to make technical decisions help you to be a valuable technical partner with development and architect teams.
Tech Leaders have a number of responsibilities not limited to those 3 things that I described previously. I imagine you can have different key functions for this role. Does your organization have a Tech Leader role? Is there a job description for this role? What was your experience with this role? Please discuss it in your comments.
Recommended Articles And Books:
- Who is (not) a Tech Leader
- The Definition of a Tech Lead
- I’m an engineer, how do I become a tech leader?
- The Manager’s Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change
- Enterprise Integration Patterns: Designing, Building, and Deploying Messaging