How to be a good tech lead

My job of tech lead was to continue to write code, but with the added responsibilities of representing the group to management, vetting our plans for feature delivery, and dealing with a lot of the details of the project management process.

Def of tech lead:

The tech lead role is not a point on the ladder, but a set of responsibilities that any engineer may take on once they reach the senior level. This role may or may not include people management, but if it does, the tech lead is expected to manage these team members to the high management standards. These standards include:

  • Regular (weekly) 1-1 touch-bases
  • Regular feedback on career growth, progression towards goals, areas for improvement, and praise as warranted
  • Working with reports to identify areas for learning and helping them grow in these areas via project work, external learning, or additional mentoring

If a tech lead is not managing directly, they are still expected to provide mentor-ship and guidance to the other members of the team.

The tech lead is learning how to be a strong technical project manager, and as such, they are scaling themselves by delegating work effectively without micromanaging. They focus on the whole team’s productivity and strive to increase the impact of the team’s work product. They are empowered to make independent decisions for the team and are learning how to handle difficult management and leadership situations. They are also learning how to partner effectively with product, analytics, and other areas of the business.

You can’t lead without engaging other people, and people skills are what we’re asking the new tech lead to stretch, much more than pure technical expertise. However, tech leads will be working on one major new technical skill: project management. The work of breaking down a project has a lot of similarity to the work of designing systems, and learning this skill is valuable even for engineers who don’t want to manage people.