The Importance of the Tech Lead for a Development Project

A closer look into our Tech Lead role

Recently in our podcast Octobot Tech Talks, we invited two of Octobot’s Technical Leaders to talk about their role. We loved the conversation; it included a lot of advice for people who are interested in the position: from which skills are the most important, to what their day-to-day is like.

In this blog post we’d like to share how we face the Tech Lead role at Octobot and  insights from our own people.

What is a Technical Lead

While the name might vary from one company to another, the position exists in most tech-based businesses. It’s a professional with a wide technical background who leads a team from a technical perspective. Tech Lead responsibilities include, for example, deciding which tech stack is best for their project.

A Tech Lead is also responsible for reaching a consensus when different opinions about how to tackle a situation are present within a team. In technical lead jobs, it’s important to effectively articulate opinions and decide  which road to take.

Aside from the technical aspects of a project (because life isn’t all technical), a Tech Lead is  a pillar of support for the team. They pay attention to know if someone isn’t motivated, or if they’re struggling to complete their tasks, and help them.

At Octobot, Tech Leads organize daily checkpoints for everyone to learn what the rest of the team is up to, and to see if anyone needs support with their task. There are also regular meetings to talk about the project’s goals and to align everyone  to reach them.

Within the organization, the responsibilities and integrations of the role depend a lot on the project’s context. Our Tech Leads are very close to the recruitment team, to help with technical interviews, and defining what kind of roles we need. They also collaborate with the Marketing team to create content that illuminates what we do and how we work. And lastly, they organize and take part in internal activities like workshops and open talks, to exchange knowledge and stay up to date with the current trends in the industry.

Tech Lead Responsibilities and Essential Skills for the Role

It’s important for a Tech Lead to have extensive experience and knowledge of the area, so they can take part in conversations where technologies, programming languages, etc., are discussed. While it’s impossible to know everything, a Tech Lead must participate in those conversations by giving their opinion, and explaining what they think is best, with ease.

Critical thinking is a very valuable skill for this role as well, since  Tech Lead responsibilities include looking at things from a unique perspective. For the same reason, they also need to be open to consider different points of view that appear within their teams, and not be biased toward what they think is best. Apart from that, it’s essential to make a point of staying up to date with trends and learning about new technologies and solutions that are being used around. It’s inspiring, and enlightening!

Communication skills are another must for this role. A Tech Lead has to make easily explainable decisions. Many times, they have to validate them to people who aren’t part of the project, or have no technical background, so clear and assertive communication is key.

This role is also a great place to exercise good leadership. It can make or break the success of a team. Our Tech Leads always try to lead by example and get involved in the project, as a soccer captain would do: they are leading and also playing the game to the best of their ability. They are  paying attention to how they can give individual members opportunities to grow within the team, helping them shine.

Biggest Challenges of the Role

According to our Tech Leads, Veronica and Pablo, the most complicated part of the role is finding the time to study new technologies and trends, and analyze their own project’s solutions to suggest improvements. It’s easy to be consumed by everyday tasks, leaving less time for bigger scale tasks, but it’s essential.

Another important thing that our Tech Leads must work on is communication. Engineering careers are usually  more focused on solving problems rather than sharing that process, so this is a skill that isn’t as practiced in development roles. For the Tech Lead role, it is a requirement. Taking courses and learning about communication tools has been helpful for our teams.

Advice for Future Tech Leads

This role is assumed after some time and experience, so that’s the first step. Our Tech Leads have years of work experience as software engineers, and that gives them the knowledge to participate in conversations with stakeholders, and make informed technical decisions. 

Pablo recommends specializing in one tool, instead of learning superficially about a lot of things. Though as a Tech Lead you will have to learn about new things, specializing initially on one will make you more valuable to a team, and will help you learn about other technologies with ease.

Veronica adds that practicing patience is key, especially if you’re coming from development roles, where you have specific tasks and generally see the results in a shorter amount of time. When you are a Tech Lead, everything is about the bigger picture. You will work on things with a longer period of time in mind until you can see the results of your work.

Finally, teamwork is essential for this role. Tech Leads collaborate with many other company roles, one of the closest being the Delivery Lead for each project. Here at Octobot, the two roles are in constant communication to offer the best services to clients. Tech Leads make the technical decisions and guide their teams from that point of view, while Delivery Leads communicate those plans to the clients, while also checking on the team from a personal standpoint, making sure  people are doing well and supporting each other.

To learn more about the Delivery Lead role, you can head to their episode of Octobot Tech Talks! If you’re interested in being a Tech Lead, or want to learn more about technical lead jobs and how they work at Octobot, you can listen to their episode of Octobot Tech Talks on your favorite podcast platform.

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