Titles in the software industry are notoriously confusing. In this article, we’ve broken down one of the most commonly misunderstood titles — Technical Lead — to shed light on what effective technical leadership looks like in practice.
Who is a Technical Lead?
The title of Technical Lead often encompasses many different roles, including architect, team lead, engineering manager, and even Scrum Master or Product Manager. They’re responsible for a project’s technical vision — i.e. the long-term technical goals and a plan for how they will be achieved.
But Technical Leads need to bring more than expert-level technical know-how to the table. They’re also expected to manage the day-to-day activities, deliverables and morale of an engineering team, all without losing sight of the ‘bigger picture’.
What Does A Technical Lead Do?
A Technical Lead is responsible for the infrastructure and execution of a technical project, as well as fostering a strong engineering culture, inspiring their team, encouraging open communication, and taking the lead on tough decision-making. Technical Leads are generally in charge of:
- Setting clear team goals
- Delegating tasks and setting deadlines
- Overseeing day-to-day operation
- Monitoring team performance and reporting on metrics
- Motivating team members
- Identifying training needs and providing adequate coaching
- Listening to team members’ feedback and resolving any issues or conflicts
- Recognizing high performance and rewarding accomplishments
- Encouraging creativity and risk-taking
- Suggesting and organizing team-building activities
10 Traits of a Great – not just Good – Technical Lead
While specific responsibilities may vary, all great Technical Leads share the following traits:
- They are comfortable embracing change and navigating the obstacles that are a natural part of large-scale technical projects.
- They persevere through failure and never lose sight of the end-goal.
- They stay technically up to date through consistent education and time with other tech leads.
- They make a concerted effort to get to know their team members and actively mentor them to become better engineers.
- They make decisions confidently and have a bias for action.
- They’re not afraid to think big and set ambitious goals.
- They make getting to know new team members a priority.
- They welcome cultural differences and a diverse set of experiences and perspectives.
- They facilitate open and honest communication among the members of their team.
- They focus on solving problems.
If you have the knowledge and skill to see a technical vision through to fruition, as well as the emotional intelligence required to know how to keep your team happy and motivated, we’ve got good news: you’re on the path to becoming an excellent Technical Lead!