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June 17, 2023 - 5 minutes

What Is a Tech Lead?

Let’s fight some common misconceptions about a key member in the software development team.

Juliette Carreiro - Tech Writer

Interested in being your software team’s go-to for technical questions? Dream of becoming a leader in your department? Excited about utilizing new technologies to guide innovation within your department? If these all sound familiar, then tech lead could be the perfect role for you. In this article, we’ll break down the responsibilities and requirements of a tech lead to figure out if it’s the right fit for you. 

What Is a Tech Lead? 

By looking at the term “tech lead,” we can gather two things: they work in both a technical capacity and a leadership position. So then, what does a tech lead do? A technical lead – or tech lead for short – oversees the technical aspects of a software team by making architectural and design decisions, guiding team members in technical matters, and supervising system modifications. Some key job responsibilities of a tech lead include: 

  • Establishing project specifications and technical direction 

  • Creating a framework of technical standards and procedures  

  • Overseeing software quality and system modifications 

  • Guiding team members with troubleshooting technical issues

  • Analyzing existing operations to identify risks and redundancies 

  • Conducting comprehensive assessments to develop solutions 

In other words, as a tech lead, you’re basically setting the technical direction of the project and clearing the way of any programming hurdles that may arise, whether it be closing technical knowledge gaps, finding answers to product questions, or streamlining existing operations. 

As a tech lead, you'll engineer, guide, and implement technical solutions and improvements with the help of your software development team. You can get your hands dirty and do some coding once in a while, but that isn’t your main job responsibility. 

So, if you’re someone who enjoys both the technical and interpersonal aspects of software development, a tech lead may be the job for you.  

With Whom do Tech Leads Work?

Together with team leads and product owners, tech leads play a leadership role in a software or engineering department; each leader focuses on a different aspect of the production process. A product owner will focus on overall product development and a team lead will focus on people development; a tech lead focuses on technical development. 

Together, they set the project’s direction and guide the team members to ensure the project’s deliverables are fulfilled. Some essential members of the software development team include: 

  • Product Owner: leads product development to fulfill client’s requirements 

  • Team Lead/ Engineering Manager: guides team through development process  

  • Project Manager: oversees the development, organization, and delivery of a product 

  • Software Developer: designs and develops software to fit the users’ needs 

  • Quality Assurance Engineer: confirms developed solution fits specifications  

  • Software Tester: executes tests to ensure solutions fit performance and security demands 

  • UX/UI Designer: designs features to enhance customer experience and interaction

A software team works together to ensure the smooth delivery of a product;as a tech lead, you must be able to balance priorities, communicate clear goals, and make apt decisions, all while taking into account your team’s capabilities and the product’s deliverables. Since each position on the team has some involvement in the technical operation, you must make sure that each team member has a handle on their portion of the software development process to ensure the delivered product meets the client’s expectations. 

What Skills Do Tech Leads Need? 

A tech lead can be considered a leader, developer, and architect all in one, which defines their essential skill set:

  • As a leader, they supervise team members, delegate tasks, issue feedback, evaluate risks, and resolve conflicts. 

  • As a developer, they apply programming tools, utilize design patterns, perform automated testing, and refactor code. 

  • As an architect, they perform technical assessments, oversee development lifecycles, direct release management, and adhere to federal regulations. 

As you can see, tech leads must not only have the technical expertise to develop products, but have the people skills to lead teams as well. Some crucial skills of a tech lead include: 

  • Communication and leadership 

  • Project and crisis management 

  • Software architecture and systems testing 

  • Technical guidance and decision-making skills

  • Quality assurance 

  • Problem solving and innovation 

  • Ownership and vision 

How Can I Become a Tech Lead?

You can develop these skills by gaining professional experience along with taking technical and leadership courses. A tech lead isn’t an entry level role; starting off, tech leads often have 5+ years of experience in the field and a bachelor’s degree. But remember, a tech lead also isn’t just a senior software engineer: just focusing on programming knowledge is not going to get you there, you need to build interpersonal skills as well. 

So, how can you do that? Well:

  • You can apply some professional approaches, such as supporting coworkers, providing technical advice, suggesting new initiatives, creating innovative solutions, and requesting performance-based feedback, to show your resourcefulness while developing new skills. 

  • You can use some administrative tools, such as a strengths and weaknesses chart, a professional development plan, and a goal breakdown, to guide your learning and development while focusing on the professional skills you need to reinforce. 

With a proper plan of attack, you can be well on your way to becoming a tech lead. As you know, the job title has the term “lead” in it, which means it’s considered a senior role – but still a great target position. Since tech leads are considered to be both technical experts and competent supervisors, you’ll need a decent amount of experience first. 

Our Web Development Bootcamp is a great first step that you can take to establish the essential hard and soft skills needed to form a strong foundation in web development that you can build on with professional experience.  

Web development has boundless possibilities, with a tech lead being one of them. We can’t wait to see where you go next! 

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