So, You Want to Lead in Technology, Right? This Is How to Achieve Your Goals

With perseverance and dedication, it is possible for software engineers to gain promotion to the role of technical lead over time. In some cases, this position may be assumed without any formal designation. Once appointed to this position, it is essential to consider a range of factors that can influence the success of the project and the productivity of the team.

It is undeniable that the job in question is anything but straightforward, which is why it is advisable to have a few tactics up your sleeve at all times. Leadership is an innate quality, so those who possess a talent for technology will have a better chance of reaching the top of the department. If you are fortunate enough to be appointed to such a role, there are a few essential steps you can take to ensure your success. Some of the most important of these are outlined below.

1. Familiarize yourself deeply with your team.

As a strong technical lead, it is beneficial to take the initiative to build relationships with your team members, as this may not always be the responsibility of a manager. There are a number of advantages to developing strong relationships with your colleagues, the most widely recognised being the opportunity to gain a better understanding of their personalities, likes and dislikes, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

Having a strong working relationship with your subordinates can be beneficial in making more informed delegation decisions. By allowing for an open platform for dialogue, you can gain constructive and honest feedback from your team members regarding your leadership. This can enable you to make more informed choices when delegating tasks.

It is clear that supervisors should hold regular meetings to promote teamwork, however, this should not be seen as the only way to improve the conditions for working together. By taking the initiative and organising your own meetings, you can not only foster a better working environment but also develop your own management skills.

2. To strike a balance between competing interests

As a Technical Lead, it can be a difficult task to manage the requirements of all individuals associated with the project. From Engineers and their supervisors to the Marketing and Executive departments, there will be multiple individuals in touch with you, each expecting something different from the project. This can create a situation whereby conflicting agendas arise, making it challenging to reach a successful outcome.

It is important to achieve a harmonious balance between the various demands that need to be met. This should encompass both the expectations of your stakeholders, so that your engineers can focus on tasks that they find engaging, while still producing the desired output. Additionally, it is essential to take into consideration your own personal objectives in order to ensure that the equilibrium is maintained.

In the face of such difficulties, it is important to remember that there are often multiple solutions to a single problem. If it seems that you have to choose between two equally important objectives, it is worth exploring the possibility of achieving both. Additionally, it can be beneficial to remain flexible in terms of the order of importance of your goals, as you progress through different stages of development.

At different stages of the project, there may be times where you will need to consider the trade-off between launching a product on a specific date, addressing any technical debt, or upgrading existing features. The approach you take to prioritising these activities will depend on the particular phase of the project. It is therefore important to take the time to carefully assess your options and decide which approach is most appropriate.

3. Promote interaction with the rest of the company

Engaging with non-technical business stakeholders who are focused on the outcomes of the project can be a major challenge for development teams. Holding meetings with other parties who require information to be communicated using terms that are accessible to everyone, including those without technical knowledge, is an unavoidable part of creating software. Unfortunately, many engineers may lack the skills or the enthusiasm to effectively express ideas without relying on technical terminology.

If the technical lead fails to provide instruction to their team, they risk creating a disconnect between the development team and the wider organisation. This can lead to the development team becoming isolated, unable to effectively and efficiently communicate with the rest of the company. In order to avoid this, it is essential that the technical lead not only provides instruction to the development team, but also encourages the team to take the initiative and become more self-sufficient in the future. If the technical lead does not do this, they are likely to become the sole point of contact between the development team and the rest of the organisation. This means they will have to act as a ‘translator’ in order to effectively communicate the team’s needs and opinions to the rest of the company.

In order to prevent any potential misunderstanding or confusion, it is recommended that team members should be included in all meetings with executive stakeholders. This will not only help to educate the members on how to communicate effectively with those who are not well-versed in technical terminology, but will also ensure that the messages relayed are clear and concise. Moreover, such action will be beneficial in earning the respect of colleagues, which will help to further the team’s objectives when they are making demands on their behalf.

4. Don’t micromanage every single choice.

One of the most frequent missteps by technical leaders is the habit of micromanaging. When a leader takes this approach, their decisions come under close scrutiny which can make their followers apprehensive about following them. If the technical leader feels the need to be involved in every single decision, no matter how minor, it can lead the team to believe that they cannot trust anyone else, leading to an inevitable decrease in productivity.

If you are finding it difficult to keep up with everything, it is advisable to focus on the areas that are most important. You do not need to analyse every line of code in detail, take part in every technical discussion, or make every decision for the project. You should instead concentrate your efforts on the challenging decisions that require experience, knowledge and maturity in order to be made.

As an effective technical leader, it is important to understand when to allow your team to make decisions independently. Doing so can provide a boost in morale and help to foster greater productivity from the team. Allowing them some autonomy over their work will help to demonstrate that you trust in their capabilities and that you are open to their ideas. It is important to remain open-minded and not to become frustrated if the team moves in a different direction to that which you may have proposed.

5. Embrace the disarray that comes with teamwork

It can be difficult for perfectionists to accept that a team will not always work as harmoniously as an orchestra. While there may be times of impressive results and collaborative effort, there will also be times of chaos and disruption. A true IT leader will demonstrate their worth in these challenging moments, by taking charge and providing the necessary guidance and direction.

It is essential for technical leaders to ensure their teams are successful regardless of any difficult circumstances they may face. Leaders in the IT sector may be concerned that they are losing their grip of their teams as they are pulled in a multitude of directions to meet deadlines. This can be a disconcerting issue to contend with, yet the strain of regaining control can be even more daunting.

As a technical lead, it is important to be prepared to manage situations of chaos and disruption. Those who have previous experience on a development team will be familiar with how, on occasion, the team may face turbulence and must remain resilient to succeed. When facing a challenging environment, it can be advantageous to focus on working together collaboratively, instead of following rigid protocol.

To sum up

Whilst it may not be immediately apparent, taking a lead role in a team of technologists can be extremely rewarding. It is highly recommended that all developers consider taking on a testing role at some point in their careers, as this can help to give them a more comprehensive understanding of what is required to be a successful project leader, rather than just focusing on the engineering aspect.

As a developer, it is highly important to consider these recommendations as they will be beneficial when taking on the role of a technical lead in the future. These are not necessarily hard and fast rules, but instead provide guidance which can be utilised to navigate the turbulent waters of progression.

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