As technology progresses, jobs like software architects, tech leads, and engineering managers often have overlapping roles and responsibilities.
In some companies, tech leads are even responsible for coaching developers or mentoring new entrants in the field. In others, team leads are responsible for project management in software development.
Tech leads typically manage a team of developers to complete the project on time and meet the organizational objectives. Therefore, the responsibilities of a tech lead also overlap with that of a team leader.
Tech leads can be people managers that manage developers based on their technical expertise, technological skills, and software development skills. Software engineers or architects who want to progress into tech lead role need to develop soft skills like leadership capabilities and conflict management before they are ready to take up the responsibilities of a tech lead.
Primary Responsibilities of a Tech Lead
For software developers and engineers, being a tech lead is a pathway to a people management career. It is a hybrid position where they can still enjoy the fun of technical work like debugging and coding while managing a small or mid-sized team of developers.
But with management comes several other responsibilities as well. Here are the primary responsibilities of a tech lead:
1. Defining Procedures and Standards
Managing a team to tick-mark all the project objectives is not an easy feat. A tech lead has to define some standard procedures to enable the team to operate effectively. They take into account previous experiences to first define project onboarding processes.
The initial process would include a list of questions to ask the client. For example, the time frame, the project objectives, the risk, the team, and the resources available. The initial process also includes defining the process of finalizing the project deliverables and price.
Tech leads ensure that the process is smooth and that the team understands the best practices when onboarding the client and beginning a project. For example, a best practice could be a weekly frequency of meetings with the clients, a smooth procedure when asking for additional resources from the client, and how to present the final deliverables at the end of the project.
2. Setting a Technical Direction for the Project
Tech leads contribute to the project’s success by taking responsibility for defining the technical direction. They could help in selecting the programming environment, the tools, and the languages to be used to attain the project objectives.
Furthermore, in case of a roadblock, a good tech lead guides you to attain the solution. They might recommend hardware or network changes or recommend a change in strategic direction. Since tech leads are a bridge between the company and the developers, they must also ensure that the processes follow the company standards and frameworks.
3. Making Detailed Assessments
When figuring out the best way to tackle problems during projects, tech leads are supposed to conduct a detailed assessment of the problem before they come up with a solution. So, tech leads should be technically sound to give a quick and efficient solution to problems. This skill comes with experience working across different projects.
They need to have worked at the developer level for several years before they attain the level of tech lead skills needed to progress to that position. This way they can assess what the team is doing to have run into trouble and determine what needs to be done next to ensure the complete attainment of project objectives in the given time and resources.
4. Team Building
Tech leaders might be involved in the technical aspects of software development, but they are people managers too. So, one of the responsibilities of a tech lead is to build a high-performance team. They need to select people who are the right fit with the company culture and hold the technical skills to handle the kind of projects that come up.
After selecting the team, the tech leads are supposed to train them, attribute team roles, and foster a healthy relationship between the team members.
Team leads who are successful implement all the skills of a transformational leader because they are working in an environment where clients need quick and efficient solutions to problems.
5. Cross-team Collaborations
Tech leads do not work in a silo. For a company to run effectively, the responsibilities of a tech lead include collaboration with one another so they can get a set of fresh eyes on the project when it is facing issues.
They are also responsible for developing reports or finalizing reports that are to be shared with the top management and the clients.
6. Code Activity Metrics Monitoring
Tech leads need to track the performance of every developer too. They need to use performance metrics to track how much new code was written, what was the code churn, and the legacy refactoring.
Code churn is a rewrite of the code after three weeks of commitment to it. Compared to this legacy refactoring is the code rewritten without any change to the software’s functionality or behavior. This is how a Tech Lead can determine the collaboration of the team members and their working towards the project objectives.
Pros and Cons of Becoming a Tech Lead
After reading through all the responsibilities that a tech lead has to fulfill, you might wonder: is being a tech lead worth it?
Although becoming a tech lead comes with being responsible for the performance of their subordinates, the burden is worth it when you aspire to become one of the c-suite executives.
Here is a brief list of the pros and cons of becoming a tech lead:
Disadvantages of Becoming a Tech Lead
The worst part of becoming a tech lead is organizing and leading all sorts of meetings – with stakeholders, leadership, and developers. Meetings might extend to multi-hour brainstorming over an idea and figuring out the project deliverables, or it might include discussing the issues in the code in the wee hours of the night.
When developers make errors, it is up to the tech lead to review hundreds of lines of code to figure out the issue. It might go well beyond several days when tech leads don’t have an idea of what went wrong, but it gets better when they get experienced at catching and fixing bugs.
Apart from technical expertise, tech leads also must develop soft skills and manage conflicts between team members. They need to make sure that the developers are motivated and work harmoniously together since it is the basis of working on projects together.
Goodbye to Coding
If you love to code, you might not be in a position to take on the role of a tech lead. Tech leads rarely code, they do have to go through the code written and fix bugs, but it is not a tech lead’s job to code.
The responsibilities of a tech lead also include handling stakeholders and making sure that they are satisfied. For a person who loves to code and does not like the part where they need to document and present everything, it is not a good idea to jump into the tech lead role yet.
Pros of Becoming a Tech Lead
Salary of a Tech Lead
One of the main reasons to select a tech lead position could be the salary. Tech leads get an attractive salary based on the responsibilities that they assume.
Making the Final Decision
If you love to take the lead when you’re working with a team of coders, you would love to become a tech lead and guide the project.
Becoming a tech lead means taking one step toward top management. If you want to progress in your career, becoming a team lead is the right way to go about it.
Becoming a mentor could be one of the most rewarding experiences. You get to guide fresh graduates and newbies in the field with your expertise. When you become a mentor, you get labeled an expert which can help you move forward in your career.
Becoming a tech lead is no easy feat. It comes with a set of responsibilities that might be daunting for many software engineers. However, many companies assign tech lead roles to software engineers to help them transition to the role. They might not even label the position a tech lead, but many software developers might already be communicating with clients, setting project objectives, writing reports, and overlooking other team members’ performances.
So, before assuming the roles and responsibilities of a tech lead, software engineers must go through a transition gradually to make sure that they meet the responsibilities expected of them as tech leads.