Talking with Tech Leads - From Novice to Practitioners - by Patrick Kua
Posted on February 20th, 2015
In this book, Patrick Kua gathered a lot of interviews from multiple people that are or were, at some point, playing the role of Tech Lead in a team.
He starts off by defining what he is calling Tech Lead and how hard it is to tackle the role as most people are not really trained or prepared for it. His definition of Technical Leader is:
“A leader, responsible for a development team, who spends at least 30 per cent of their time writing code with the team."
The book evolves into a series of interviews grouped in terms of 2 major parts, novice and practitioners.
In the Novice part, Patrick goes into a bit of describing what he sees in common in Tech Leads that are novices in the matter.
- Looking to the future, not as much the present, of the project/code
- Sensing greater responsibility
- Guiding the Technical Vision
- Less time for writing code
- Juggling more context switches
- Allowing people to fail
- People aspects are hard. Maybe the hardest.
The book moves on to display a series of interviews that Patrick conducted with many people. The interview is fairly consistent and asks people to answer:
- Describe what responsibilities the Tech Lead has and/or Does the role of Tech Lead hold any surprises?
- The pros and cons
- Any preparation advice?
- Where do you go for support?
- Has your perspective changed?
- The interviewee’s key question and their answer
- The interviewee’s background
At about 25% of the book, Patrick moves to the Practitioners section. He describes a little bit what he sees in common for practitioner Tech leads:
- Remaining technically grounded
- Finding and developing good people
- Listening to the team
- Appreciating individual strengths
- The Tech of a Tech Lead
- Guiding the technical solution
- Harmonising team direction
- Managing technical risks
- Taking a longer-term view
- Bridging the Business with Tech
- Building trust
- Finding time for technology
- Making technology solutions easy to understand
- Influencing planning
- Championing business needs
- Adapting to new circumstances
- Making yourself redundant
- Using your own strengths
And follows a similar interview style approach for the rest:
- What should a Tech Lead focus on and why?
- What has been your biggest challenge as a Tech Lead?
- Any time-management tips?
- How do you strike the right balance between writing code and dealing with other issues?
- The interviewee’s question and their answer
- The interviewee’s background
Pat finishes the book drawing some conclusions from the interviews and summarizing the learnings.
The book can get a little tiring due to the interview format being a little repetitive but the content is very reassuring for new tech leads and provides a few insights for those who have been doing the work for a while. In short, I recommend the book if you are thinking about what being a tech lead is, hope to become a tech lead or are a tech lead. If you can pace yourself to read one or two interviews a day, you’d probably spend 5 to 10 minutes a day with the book and be done within the month. Probably better that way than trying to read the whole book in a single shot.