Captricity Engineering Insights: Becoming a Tech Lead
March 27, 2015 by Yoriyasu Yano
Recently I came across Talking with Tech Leads, a book by veteran tech lead Patrick Kua, where he gathered the thoughts and experiences of over 35 tech leads in the industry, ranging from the newcomers making the transition from dev to lead, and the experienced veterans who have been leading a team for years. Having experienced the transition myself, I was able to relate to a lot of the experiences listed in the book. Inspired by it, I decided to share my story of becoming a tech lead at Captricity.
As mentioned in my "Meet the Team” post, I have been with Captricity from almost the beginning. I started at Captricity as an intern in the summer before my senior year, joining a team of four engineers. I continued part time through my senior year and converted full time almost immediately after I graduated. One year later, I had become the de facto lead for the engineering organization.
To be honest, I really had no idea what I was doing at the time. I had no confidence in my ability to manage the team, or even in my ability to own the technical direction of the company. What saved me at the time was the excellent leadership and mentorship I received from Kuang, Captricity’s fearless leader. He helped introduce me to various CTOs and experienced technical leaders that gave me many kinds of advice and knowledge about what it means to lead a team. I also started to research on my own, reading various books (Managing Humans by Michael Lopp is a personal favorite) and blogs around management. While I still have a long way to go, at least now I have a better idea of what the role entails.
I’ve mentioned before how hard it was for me to become a manager, and the biggest reason for the struggle was how different the world of engineering management is from the world of coding. Leading a team required a completely different skill set, especially when dealing with the people. It is also something that you could not learn by reading a book because every situation and every person is different. What works for one team, may not apply to your team because of different dynamics behind team chemistry. The only way to learn was by trial and error. I feel that I was extremely lucky to be a part of a great team that worked with me through the mistakes I made.
Having been through the transition, I can say with confidence that being a tech lead, and more specifically a team lead, is not for everyone. Not everyone has the desire to learn the skill set required for dealing with people. That doesn’t make the person a lesser being though, and there is always a separate career path for those who don’t want to manage. Every team needs that programmer who has the deep technical knowledge to build great systems, as much as every team needs a manager that shields the team from company dynamics. I humbly believe that amazing things only come out of great teams, where ALL members of the team work together towards a common goal. And as all our "Meet the Team" posts indicate, we have assembled an amazing team here at Captricity as we work towards our goal of democratizing data access. I am proud to be a part of this great organization, working to enhance the capabilities of the engineering organization as a team lead.But, being a tech lead is not all hardships and struggles. The biggest reward of being a lead is the expansion of yourinfluence and ability. A great person once told me that the joy of management is that you become a multiplicative force. Your work directly enhances the army of engineers you work with, and thereby increases your involvement in the production. It is rewarding to feel your influence on the productive capacity of the engineering organization.