Hey Tech Leads,
Hope you’re having an awesome weekend. Last week we did a kind of grab bag of topics on the email list (reminder: it's now free).
Let’s review. On Monday (No. 57), we talked about the idea that you just need to plan for the fact that everything takes 10 times more effort than you expect. And it’s ok. It’s called work for a reason. On Wednesday (No. 59), we explored the question of how technical you should be as a tech lead or EM. Came up with the earth shattering answer: it depends. Then I left you hanging on Friday—there was no No. 59. 👎 Sorry.
Thinking about what tech leaders do and why they exist is endlessly interesting. I never get tired of thinking or talking about it.
And it’s what we’re going to talk about this week: not really how to do it—more about giving you some context for the role. It’s a foundational issue for you and everyone reading this, so I think it makes sense to come back to it again and again.
A lot of tech companies cling to the idea that we should just hire really smart people and let them have at it. That actually works for very small, focused companies. But everyone knows that if you scale to any size at all, the company or organization is going to need to divide some people into the doers, that managers, and the quasi doer/manager called the tech lead.
In 1954’s The Practice of Management, Peter Drucker, the so-called father of management, said
The manager is the dynamic, life-giving element in every business. Without his leadership the “resources of production” remain resources and never become production. In a competitive economy, above all, the quality and performance of the managers determine the success of a business, indeed they determine its survival. For the quality and performance of its managers is the only effective advantage an enterprise in a competitive economy can have.
Being a tech lead or manager is NOT a natural evolution from a tech role. It’s a whole new job, a whole new career. So I want you to take another glance 👆 at what Drucker said. It’s dated in its terminology, but it’s still 100% accurate. This is your job now.
Don’t sweat it though. I’ll break it down and make it practical for your EM or TL role in three parts this week.
First, on Monday, we’re going to step back from the leadership and people stuff that I normally talk about and explore what management does. Managers, and tech leads by proxy, run a business by doing three things:
- understanding what’s happening in the market and trying to see into the future,
- making decisions what where to go and what to do both today and in the future,
- and, finally, assembling all the available resources—technology, physical resources, time, and human (even though I hate that term)—what’s the right mix of technology and people right now.
On Wednesday, we’ll dive deeper into number three, which is probably what most people on the list will be interested in anyway. It’s where “rubber meets the road” on the first two.
On Friday, we’ll get into more details on the first two and think about what your role as a first line manager might be. Sure—you don’t get to make big strategic decisions about the whole company, but you can still make a lot of strategic and tactical decisions about your team and your work and the resources available to you. If you work in highly political, big companies, strategy for your team becomes even more important.
I think it’s going to be a pretty interesting week. Glad I’m on the journey with you!
I public summaries of what the email list here on dev.to from time to time because it's such an awesome community.