7 Questions for a Tech Lead

Josh Dadak | Tech Lead at Purplebricks

In this week’s 7 questions, Josh Dadak describes what it’s like being a Tech Lead for a squad while explaining how his experience as a Back-end Engineer simultaneously shapes his day-to-day.

1. It’s Monday morning, what’s the first thing you do?

Coffee ☕.

Hopper knows best

I need that fresh cup of life juice to wake me up and prepare me to hit the ground running. Whilst I’m sipping away, I’ll fire up Notion and jog my memory on notes from the previous Friday and check out any tasks that need finishing up. If there’s nothing critical, I’ll usually catch up on my reading list for an hour which usually contains Medium Articles, Tech Lead Digest, C# Digest and a personal favourite, Scott Hanselman’s blog, Hello Friends!

After this, more coffee.

This used to be me in the office after the drip filter was finally done!

2. What would you say is the one thing you do most frequently?

Notes! 📓

I use Notion to organise my life nowadays. In fact, I can’t remember the days without it. Appointments, travel plans, documents, code snippets, reading lists, buying lists, lists of lists…

For sure, the thing I do most is note keeping. We work in a fast paced environment with lots going on. My role as a Tech Lead means I need to be aware of lots of moving parts in order to make the right calls and not step on any toes. I’m interviewing candidates, preparing talks for the Back-end team, I’m in a lot of meetings discussing business problems and working to translate those into technical solutions. I’m asking a lot of questions for these problems so we come up with the best solutions. I’m keeping current with language and framework improvements that I can bring back to the teams. There’s a lot going on in my head, so without keeping notes, I’d be a mess.

3. If you could dispel the most common misconception about your role, what would it be?

That we don’t do anything! 🙅‍♂️

We’re in meetings all the time and so we don’t do any work. A Tech Lead isn’t exclusively about writing code or defining best practices, but is instead about managing and guiding the relationship between code and product, ensuring quality, architecturally sound solutions that we can develop, test and iterate at pace.

4. What do you think the biggest challenge is of your role?

The biggest challenge is always weighing up the strategic and the tactical vision and knowing where the line is. As engineers, we naturally want to try all the new shiny toys available to us, and to make everything perfect. But perfect is the enemy of good, and sometimes good, is good enough. That new feature you’re developing for your customers is no good if you take years to perfect it and your competitors have already released their own versions and become the go to for that thing. However, on the flip side you don’t want to be actively taking on too much tech debt, once it’s in the platform it’s much harder to get out. Balancing the strategic long-term vision with the tactical short-term practical goals and being pragmatic is something I think I’ll always be improving on.

5. How does being a Senior Back-end Engineer inform your role as a Tech Lead?

Being a Tech Lead often means people are going to come to you for guidance, advice, and help with things they’re stuck on. Having a solid background as an engineer helps me be able to dive right in and assist the person in solving their problem, and more importantly, explain how we fixed it. Ultimately, being a Back-end Engineer also means I enjoy writing code and learning new things. I’m always keen to test new things available to us, which in turn also improves my ability to make choices as the Tech Lead. There’s a sense of serendipity sometimes when you’re learning about a new piece of tech and realise you can use it for a problem you’re facing.

6. It’s Friday evening, what’s the last thing you do?

Write up some notes to refer back to on Monday, and then…

🍹 Pub Friday!

This obviously used to take place in the actual pub around the corner from the office, but since lockdown, we digitised it and all hop on a Teams call and have a drink. After work, I’ll feed the cat, help cook dinner (I’m great at stirring pans), and then settle in to hop on Discord and play games with my friends. Right now I’ve just started Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Obligatory cat picture. This is Mort. She’s helping me code.

7. And finally, your favourite food?

🍕 Margherita pizza!

That being said, there’s a pizza place near me that do an amazing 4 cheese. I’ve always got time for pizza, ask anyone on my team when we’re out for team lunches my pizza will be hoovered up before all the plates are delivered!

A picture of me at the weekend very full after eating pizza and cider
Josh D, Tech Lead at Purplebricks

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Josh Dadak

Josh Dadak

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Senior Software Engineer @ ASOS. Previous Tech Lead @ Purplebricks. Founder of Powered4TV. Developer, teacher, all around nerd.