For a long time I have been trying to figure out exactly what my role as a "technical leader" really means. I have been addressed by many different titles that require technical leadership, titles such as project lead, technical lead, team lead and most recently chief technology officer (CTO). Researching online and talking to other people in these roles provided some insight into what it all means. However, none of the explanations and answers I got really satisfied me.
In the beginning of the year, I set myself on a quest to improve as a technical leader. To do so I first had to understand what it actually meant be a technical leader. Through discovery I've learned that there is no single definition. What I learned was that one must define what the title means to them. Therefore, that's what I did.
Technical leadership is focusing on growth in three key areas - People, Process and Technology.
To be a leader one must have a maniacal focus on the people within their team. There are many different ways one can lead a group of people. For me, leading people means supporting them and enabling them. My approach is to help each team member grow and help them become leaders in their own right. Ideally, they surpass me as leaders.
That might sound counter intuitive but bear with me. My team is made up of engineers - typically very technical people. Each individual has unique skill sets and strengths and it is my job to ensure that they keep developing those and growing to a point where they become the experts at that specific skill set. After all we are talking about being a technical leader.
As a leader, one must have defined process for the team to follow. Processes are important as they ensure the team is focused on the right thing and working towards the same goal. The process is also what bridges the different teams together. The flow of information from each team can introduce or eliminate problems.
Since processes are critical for the success of the business I constantly am evaluating the effectiveness of our approach. Additionally, getting inspiration for new and improved processes from learning and analyzing other companies/people processes.
The last piece of being a technical leader is the technology. As the technical leader, my job to ensure that our technology and development choices are aligned with the business objective. I must evaluate the choices that the engineering and product team make to ensure we are not placing ourselves in a dodgy spot.
Additionally, I must be a technical resource for the engineering team as they grow. How? I focus on three key areas! Keeping up with technological advances in the industry, understanding the best practices when it comes to problem solving and architecting internal systems that work.
Being a technical leader is a challenging role with no specific definition to follow. As of right now, this is my definition of the role and this is what I am holding myself accountable to. You might have a different definition or you might have something similar; nonetheless, the definition should be adaptable to what works best for you, your team and your business.