Team lead – is it really what you are looking for?

I’ve had many talks over the years with friends / team members about their career path and what they should focus on in order to achieve their next career milestone.

In this post, I will focus specifically on the “Team lead” position and what are the common expectations of a Team Lead.
My hope is that it will give you, the reader, the information you were looking for and help you decide if this is indeed the right career path for you.

Lets begin with what a Team Lead is doing as part of his day-to-day work.

Team Lead responsibilities – within the team:

  1. Overseeing the technology, tools and technique used within the team.
  2. Ensure development standards are adhered to.
  3. Plan and track task progress.
  4. Be impact oriented – always be able to explain the business impact of tasks.

Team Lead responsibilities – outside the team:

  1. Ensure visibility of team work progress / achievements.
  2. Work closely with the business and engineers to maximise impact

The first thing to notice is that the role requires much more communication and management skills, so if your passion is more about coding, you should think hard if this is the right move for you.
Secondly, it requires much experience in your domain since your role is to guide, grow and help where needed, which means you should be around Senior level.
Lastly, you should think about the following when aiming for a Team Lead position:

Good reasons to become a Team Lead:

  1. Your passion is people.
  2. You love and know how to empower, support, guide and grow people.
  3. You have great communication skills and enjoy watching others succeed.

Bad reasons to become a Team Lead:

  1. You want to be the “boss”.
  2. You want control.
  3. You believe it’s the natural way to progress in the industry.

If after reading the above, you believe you found your new calling, here is a grocery list of things that can help you greatly as part of your Team Lead role. (qualifies for management as well)

  1. Communication skills – this is by far the most important skill you will need and it breaks down to:
    1. Listen – put your ego aside, even if you don’t agree, listen.
    2. Assume best intentions – you meet all types of people during your work, different culture, different backgrounds, different slang and most likely they will not always talk in the same “language”. You should always assume best intentions.
  2. Presentation skills – like it or not, you will be put in a position where you need to talk to a forum of people, whether it by giving a status report, doing design review, or plan your next sprint with your team, you need to know how to stand and talk in front of people.
  3. Time management – while it might sound funny, there are techniques which helps us do a better job and manage our time more efficiently. Some workplaces provide this course but if not, there are a lot of good articles online about the subject.

Good luck!

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