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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Success of good tech leads is really attributed to the SUM of many LITTLE good moves

How many times have you been asked as a tech lead what you do to make things successful?
If the answer to that question were simple, then the experience of tech leads would be totally undervalued.
We all know that there is no silver bullet for the success of projects that certain tech leads have been achieving. The success of good tech leads is really attributed to the sum of many little good moves.
It starts from day 1 when requirements are being delivered to the team. For example, analyzing the business requirements, detecting what are the true requirements and removing all requirements that contain implementation details is very crucial in the overall equation. Sometimes you, as the tech lead, will need to put a project management hat and a product management hat on in order to steer the ship in the right direction, and at the same time you need to be very engaged in the low-level technical details with your fellow software engineers. This is just the beginning and the moves made at this phase are the foundation to the rest of challenges that follow. In the agile methodology world, this requirements phase happens very often and that even puts more pressure on you as the tech lead to keep the foundation solid.
Then you get to the point where you are taking the ironed out business requirements (epics) and turning them into a collection of user stories that different squads will be receiving into their squad’s backlogs. Understanding how to do this breakdown and estimation is crucial in laying the foundation for all the squads and the backlogs that squads would take on. You, as the tech lead, plays an instrumental role in this process because you would be working very closely with solutions architects in determining the high-level design and architecture. The decisions that you and solutions architects make at this step are impacting multiple squads and the squads’ timelines (pre-planned sprints) and the overall calculated production launch date for the given milestone/release.
Then you get the point where you take the stories from your squad’s backlog and you work with fellow engineers on your squad/team. Every interaction and every little move or piece of advice that you give to developers is important; every recommendation that is given to you needs to be properly assessed. It starts before even a line of code is written. It starts with the coding methodology and mindset. It is anything from introducing guidelines on how to define boundaries of microservices/APIs to unit-testing culture to database design in NoSQL vs. SQL to concepts of backwards compatibility to introduction of feature toggles for product team and launch risk mitigations and etc. There are so many little things that create the sum that defines the success.
If you are a developer on this team, learn to listen and hear what the good tech leads are preaching and also provide your feedback as great tech leads also know how to accept your input and build on it. If you are a tech lead, show the values you care about through examples and let the team experience it, and then sense when you need to step back a bit and let the team move forward and ride on the momentum and the vibe you have established on the floor.
Keep in mind that while you are going through this exercise, you do NOT think that you are smartest person in the room because if you think you are, then it really means that you are in the wrong room. If nobody applies any humbleness, then it means everybody is in the wrong room and the concept the team disappears. Understand your skills and understand the skills your teammates bring on the table and try to create a culture where complimenting each other happens naturally. This is the culture where you respect each other so much at the professional level that you are happily sacrificing your time to save each other’s work.
Geek out and enjoy the process because it requires a lot of patience and perseverance.
Thank you for reading.
Almir Mustafic



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