development leadership

Becoming a technical lead

A new year has arrived, and maybe now you think it’s time to take on a new challenge. You want to become a technical lead, or maybe you can see that your project needs one and no-one else wants it. You’re apprehensive, and unsure you’re ready. It’s OK. Everyone is an imposter.

Set yourself some stretch goals, something that seems just out of your reach. Throwing yourself in at the deep end is good practice, because you might ask your team to do it too, so you’ll be able to use your experience to help. You’d be wise to have a mentor at this point, to make sure you’re not being too ambitious, because you do want some early successes to give you the confidence you’re going to need later on.

I’ll assume you have the technical knowledge, so think about the things that set you apart, now you’re a leader. You have to guide the team to the goal, and make sure there’s a common purpose, and a team culture to follow. That’s all down to you. You have to know your team, and their strengths. You need a strategy to deal with disagreements. Read Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams and understand that people are not interchangeable components, despite what your high-level plans might fool you into thinking. You are an individual now, your team are individuals too.

Ask questions of your peers and the community to understand what technical leadership means to them.

Learn from those who’ve done it before, and have offered up their wisdom. One of my colleagues is writing about his learning path as he goes, and there’s a lot of great information about keeping the bigger picture fresh, and understanding your team : Mike Childs – blog posts on leadership. But don’t forget to look after yourself too, as Patrick Kua explains : 5 Tips for Being an Effective Tech Lead | ThoughtWorks

Good luck on your new challenge, wherever you are.

3 replies on “Becoming a technical lead”

Thanks for the mention again Craig, good post as always. Think the feeling of being an impostor is a common one can be difficult to deal with, I know I certainly still feel out of my depth sometimes! I found the chapters in John Sonmez’s Soft Skills book about the “Fake it till you make it” mindset to be particularly helpful.

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