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Earlier this year, we interviewed a few dozen tech leads and asked them this simple question:

“What does success look like as a tech lead?”

Across small and large companies, infrastructure and product teams, enterprise and customer-facing companies, people shared that being a good tech lead means some version of: good execution with a team that’s happy.

On every team and at every company, tech lead roles can vary substantially. …

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A short story

A few years ago, Company X was a five-person startup. Everyone talked to everyone every day, and it was super clear what needed to get done — if someone saw something not getting done, they went ahead and did it. It was chaotic, but the early employees also found this “wear many hats” mode exhilarating and inspiring.

As Company X grew, it developed into another sort of chaos. A few levels of management were added, communication silos started to develop, and people stopped taking as much initiative.

There is a rift of understanding between those at the “top” and those at the “bottom,” and for both, it feels like a hopeless situation. Leaders are frustrated that the engineers and designers and product managers on the ground aren’t ideating, are too permission-seeking, or aren’t assertive enough. Meanwhile, those exact individuals feel stifled and resort to slogging through their tasks, with little to no context on how they impact the organization. Engineers and designers appear to be unenthused, and execution seems slow, slow, slow. Engineers say they are blocked on design, and design says they’re blocked on product direction. Tech leads and product managers start managing smaller and smaller tasks.

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This post was originally published on July 17, 2018 on the Co Leadership blog.

When I left my full-time tech job as an engineering manager a year and a few months ago, I had crafted a lovely narrative on why I was going into coaching.

When people asked, I responded that I took the part of my job that was most rewarding, and decided to just do that. And in talking to many engineering managers, I also realized that people didn’t have much support as they moved into management roles — and they were lonely. …


Jean Hsu

Co-founder of coleadership.com, transforming engineers into leaders. Previously engineering at @Medium, Pulse, and Google.

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