Adventures of a Tech Lead II

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At Intersect we pride ourselves on delivering quality products quickly. A large part of our success is attributed to the people who lead our project teams. This series takes a look at common scenarios a new or seasoned Tech Lead may encounter.

Wait, what’s a Tech Lead?  

A Tech Lead is an individual who, in addition to being a developer, frequently needs to wear several hats and play a different role during the project lifecycle. Factors such as the nature of the project, the phase of the project, and the project team composition impact the type of hat they may need to wear. A Tech Lead may not be the most senior engineer or the best coder, but in order for them to be successful, they do need to be a good listener and communicator and adapt to changes in a project. They are responsible for the project’s technical delivery and are accountable for guiding the team to the finish line. Being a Tech Lead does not always come with a formal title. It is a role that an engineer can play, which may be temporary due to the state of a project, or spontaneous based on a particular situation. Therefore, Tech Leads may not necessarily have the authority to influence others, or expect a higher paycheque, but leading a project is a tremendous opportunity for personal and professional development. The Tech Lead role can be a way for an individual to gain more recognition within their organization, which may become a stepping stone into management or leadership-oriented roles.

About this series 

Articles in this series feature observations that have been made and shared throughout weekly Tech Lead sessions that we participate in at CoreLogic Intersect: lessons we learned from personal experiences, books we read, or strategies that have worked in the past. You may choose to read this as a guide, some stories of wisdom, or simply as an introduction to your journey as a Tech Lead. Please keep in mind that the role of a Tech Lead may differ from company to company, but there are fundamental responsibilities that are shared amongst everyone.

As Camille Fournier stated in her book The Manager’s Path: “being a tech lead is an exercise in influencing without authority.” How do you sell your team’s idea to other teams, or convince your team to do what needs to be done in order to reach the finish line? It is no easy feat, and how one prepares for this role is critical as the path of the Tech Lead can often be full of surprises and unpredictability.

Scenario II: You have recently been asked to take on Tech Lead responsibilities on a project that you have been a part of. Great, now how do you start effectively leading the other engineers on the team?

As a Tech Lead, you build relationships with your team by being reliable and supportive. You are there to protect the team when necessary, and to help clear obstacles. Sometimes, you may need to help see things that others may not see when they have their heads in the code. It is helpful to define objectives in timelines that are achievable, in other words, set the team up to be successful. By describing the vision ahead, you make sure that everyone is in tune with the desired outcome. However, it is not necessarily your duty to decide which path to take or how to get there, so start first by placing your trust in your teammates as well as earning trust from them.

“When you cross the bridge of trust, you have to take the first step without knowing for certain that it will hold up.”

One of the most certain ways to get on the path to earning the trust of your team is actually incredibly simple to describe: make sure to always do what you say you are going to do. Earn trust by meeting others’ expectations and keeping any and all commitments or promises that you make. Once this pattern is established, when the time comes to raise a concern, they will listen.

It can take a lot of time to earn trust. Unfortunately, it is very easy to lose the trust you have built instantly. Given this phenomenon, it is important to be careful not to over-promise and learn to share your responsibilities with the team. Be there to provide feedback and support where necessary, shield the team from distractions, and do your best to create space for the team to do their work rather than create obstacles.

Every adventure poses a new set of challenges

Every team and every Tech Lead may have their own set of challenges, so feel free to share your stories with us. More scenarios will be introduced in the upcoming weeks, let us know if there are any particular experiences you would like to read about.