Uplifting Stories of Tech Leads

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I had a tweet that seemed to resonate with a huge number of people this week.

We've all had feedback that stays with us, or actions that have been harmful.

BUT, instead of sharing those I'd love to flip this on its head and talk about leads and mentors who really made a difference. What they did right and how it helped you in your career. I'm all ears.

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Fail Forward

Our VP of Engineering ingrained in our team early on that if we were going to fail we were always going to fail forward. This started when the dev team had 7 people on it and has continued now that we have 40+. Many times when our team ran into problems, rather than having us rollback or revert, our VP always pushed us to figure it out and to continue pushing forward. Even if the CEO or others were breathing down his neck, he was our shield and he whole heartedly always believed we could do it. He probably believed more in us than we did sometimes and you know what, he was right. We could always figure it out and because we always have we have grown into an even stronger team than we ever thought we could be.

 

That's awesome. Thanks for sharing.

It seems like "acting as a shield" is a common positive attribute for leads to have.

 

I had a person on my team 10 years ago who was practically a high-school dropout that I took under my wing. For the next 5 years, they came with me from company-to-company across 4 different jobs. Today he lives in a penthouse as a FinTech architect. I couldn't be prouder - I just wish he didn't make so much more damn money than me. j/k, he and I are still very close friends.

 

Can you effectively grow the people you lead if you don't code? I have grown a lot when I worked with someone whose coding inspired me. He didn't hesitate to discuss the solutions in a technical manner and he shared the process that he goes through when he codes. In a brief period I worked with him, I found very good techniques that I still use and I appreciate him for those.

On the other hand, my current manager is also quite inspiring in that he treats me as a friend, is always willing to listen and values the input that I bring.

I think it ought to be a combination of both, a solid technical vision and a kind approach to your co-workers.

 

I believe that you can grow your staff if you don't code. One thing that I picked up from one of my mentors (who was Tech Lead for our major product for several years) was that when you are Tech Lead, writing code isn't as large a part of your job as you might think.

At least in the enterprise-y space where we were working (building an OS), the role of Tech Lead was to review projects, provide guidance on how to improve them, teach less experienced staff about our processes and development culture, be our product's overall quality champion (saying NO to management if the project wasn't ready) and perhaps most importantly, build and maintain contacts throughout the organisation so that if an engineer or manager popped up and said "I've got a problem with Z, who should I talk to?" then they would know who to redirect that person to.

Connections, connections, connections. Knowing when to say no, when to say not yet, when to say yes.

** "major product" was an OS, and we had between 2500-3000 development staff (incl program managers and team managers).

 

Definitely feel like having connections, championing processes, facilitating the company culture, being helpful to less experienced developers, etc, are important qualities of a good leader, but I almost feel like all those things also get naturally developed in the lives of all reasonable developers. Developers aren't just code monkeys (hopefully), and they should be trying to get good at all those aspects.

To me (and this is something that you mentioned as well), a leader should stand up for those they lead, say no to the higher-ups if need be, cherish, stand up for and justify good ideas on behalf of their team. They should help their team and take certain burdens away.

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Software dev at Ten Mile Square | DC techie | Conference speaker | Girls Who Code Facilitator | Board game geek | @laurieontech on twitter

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