I’ve been a Tech Lead for a few years now, though I’d say I’ve only been a good Tech Lead for about a year. So what, exactly, does a good Tech Lead do?
The role of Tech Lead may not be exactly the same in every company, but there are certainly a number of things a good Tech Lead should be doing to help lead and enable a successful team.
The name of the role, Tech Lead, would suggest it’s a role with two major components. It’s a leadership role, with a technical slant.
On the technical side, you will be setting the technical direction for the team. This might include defining a vision, setting some principles, creating a target architecture, etc. You will also have overall responsibility for the quality of the software your team is producing, it’s reliability, observability, how it’s tested, etc.
A lot of this will come easily to a new Tech Lead. You will likely have been promoted in to the role after consistently showing your expertise in this area. You will now be expected to play a larger role in tying the technical vision to your teams product vision, and working closely with your Product Manager to ensure they are aligned.
The second part of the role is leadership. This will include managing the teams health, evolving the teams processes, being responsible for the teams velocity and delivery, etc.
This is a little harder than the technical side, but some of this will hopefully be shared with an Engineering Manager, who will have more expertise in the area. You’ll need to work closely with them, as team health is probably the most important thing to get right.
What brings this role together is communication. You can be trying to set the perfect technical direction and working out the most effective team processes, but if you can’t communicate this well to your team and bring them with you, it’s not going to happen.
It’s your ability to communicate, to persuade, and to achieve consensus and alignment that allows you and the team to grow together and to have that impact in your organisation.
Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t communicating well enough, and some of my greatest target architecture documents were just sitting there gathering virtual dust. Improving your communication skills isn’t easy, and it’s still the area I’m working hardest on, but without it you can’t be a good Tech Lead.
Cover image from Unsplash.