Being a tech lead is a bigger career step than many think. So if you’re going to do it right, you should think about your motivations for jumping in.
In the role, there are going to be ups and downs. Some days you are going to be blown away by how creative, forward thinking, and generally awesome your team is. "Hey this tech lead thing is hardly work at all," you may say.
On other days, it’s going to be incredibly frustrating to get people to understand your technical vision, let alone execute on it:
- Engineers all have their own preferences and experiences, so many will challenge or even resist your vision.
- Even if they accept your vision, engineers don’t always implement it the way you thought you clearly explained.
- Sometimes they do weird things like adding inexplicable dependencies ("Why on earth do they need that whole library for one little function?" you might wonder.)
- And there are as many other reasons as there are people on earth for why it may be frustrating!
As a tech lead, you can’t code your way around those problems. You're going to have to dive into some of the people aspects of engineering. So, I want you to think about whether you want to put yourself on this human roller coaster.
Be honest with yourself: do you really want to do it? After all, writing code as an individual contributor is a perfectly rewarding and endlessly interesting career. You may be wondering if you should take the plunge.
To answer the question, it may help if you take a moment to consider your motivations and intentions for the role. Why do you think you may want to be a tech lead?
You could be considering the role for extrinsic reasons, such as:
- wanting to show career progress on your LinkedIn profile,
- making more money (I have bad news on that, by the way),
- wanting people to think you're important because you have the word "lead" in your title,
- and, my personal favorite, because you think you have a better technical approach than your current tech lead.
If you answered in any of these ways, then the frustrations I mentioned above may end up driving you mad and may make you regret your decision.
If, however, you are at a point in your career where you want to have a bigger impact than you can have individually, then you might be on to a better answer to the question. Some better reasons include:
- You’ve hit a point in your career where you aren’t growing enough with mere technical challenges.
- You know you want to grow both personally and professionally, and you suspect working as a lead will help you do that.
- You’re excited for any kind of new challenge, not just purely technical challenges.
If these answers seem to speak to you, then those "frustrations" I mentioned above won't actually be frustrations. They're actually very interesting problems and opportunities to learn about both management and leadership.
In fact, if these are your answers, you may learn to love the tech lead role.
What do you think? What were your reasons for getting into the role? If you're not in it, what are your thoughts about it?
PS - this material was adopted from my free book, How To Be A Tech Lead, currently available only on Leanpub. I also organize the community based Tech Lead Coaching Network where tech leads help each other :-)