The tech lead vs. team lead topic can be very tricky. What makes it more confusing is that some companies use the terms interchangeably. But is there a difference between the two roles? Let us discuss who does what.
Defining roles can vary between organizations in the software development industry. A senior developer from company X might be a programmer III for company Y. Similarly, a lead developer for one group can be another’s architect.
Let us settle the tech lead vs. team lead argument in this article. Are there differences between the two leadership roles? Is it important to differentiate the two? Why should it matter?
First, we will discuss what each role entails—their responsibilities and duties, qualifications, and, finally, their differences. Let’s start with the technical leader.
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What is a Tech Lead?
A tech lead or technical leader, as the name suggests, is one of the leaders in a software development team. They are professionals who focus more on the technical side of software development projects.
The role of a tech lead is often assigned to senior developers or engineers. With their experience and skills, they participate in defining the specifications, architecture, and other tech-related areas of the project. They also mentor their fellow programmers.
Of course, their responsibilities do not end there. Let’s take a look at their primary duties.
What does a Tech Lead Do?
Let’s discuss some of the most common duties and responsibilities of a technical leader:
1. Recruitment and Hiring
Most of the time, tech leads join developers’ and engineers’ hiring processes. HR relies upon their expertise and experience in assessing the skills of potential hires. Their input during the recruitment process is valuable on whether the company hires a developer or not.
2. Manage Workload
Because no development project is the same, the scope and size vary. Hence, tech leaders need to evaluate the workload thoroughly. They also need to assess which developer or engineer works on specific tasks. They must make sure to delegate tasks to programmers who have the skill to complete them.
3. Identifying and Fixing Technical Problems
Problems will inevitably arise during software development. Identifying these problems and fixing them falls under the scope of the tech leads. They will supervise the team during troubleshooting. And, they must make sure that these technical issues have minimal effects on their project’s progress.
4. Goal Setting
As one of the leaders in a software development team, they help set project milestones. Because they are more experienced and technically knowledgeable, they can help project managers set SMART goals.
5. Updating Tools and Applications
They ensure that their teams use the right tools and techs to fulfill the software project as a tech lead. If their tools need updating, they will supervise the necessary upgrades. By using relevant and updated tools, they will ensure the scalability of their project.
6. Security Audit
Aside from ensuring that their team uses relevant and appropriate tools, they also assist in auditing the security features. They make sure to follow security standards and make improvements when needed.
Tech leads are usually senior engineers or developers of the team. This means that they are the most skilled and experienced. Hence, their teammates will look up to them for guidance and advice.
These are just some of the tasks assigned to a tech lead. In some companies, they may handle more tasks. Still, their main goal is to assist their teams in completing a software project by using their technical prowess.
Now that we’ve discussed the duties and responsibilities of a tech lead, it’s time to learn more about their qualifications. Below are what companies look for from a technical team leader.
- A bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, IT, or any related fields
- A certification or experience in project management or related positions
- Proven coding, troubleshooting, and diagnosing skills
- Excellent leadership and organization skills
- Outstanding communication, interpersonal, and mentoring skills
- Ability to write progress, auditing, and other reports
In short, companies are looking for tech leads that have both technical and soft skills. Although their focus is highly technical, they also need people skills for clients and other project stakeholders.
What is a Team Lead?
A team leader does not need to have a technical or programming background. Although it is an advantage to have one, being a team lead means having a more managerial role.
Because their focus is not on the technical side of software development, they are often not asked to code. Team leads are more concerned with managing and steering the project in the right direction.
What does a Team Lead Do?
Team leaders may not have the software development expertise compared to tech leads, but it doesn’t mean they have lesser roles to play. They are responsible for setting the team’s environment and culture. Plus, these leaders manage the team’s productivity and quality.
Depending on the company, team leaders may handle different assignments. However, most team lead roles are responsible for the following duties:
1. Setting the Development Workflows
One of the secrets of a successful software development team is having a clear set of workflows and procedures. Team leads should implement clear protocols to avoid chaos to organize how the team works. Having these defined processes allows members to know their roles. Additionally, it will help in quickly bringing new recruits to the team.
2. Providing Instructions
For a software development team to complete a project, instructions should be clear and well-explained. It is a big responsibility for team leaders to streamline information regarding the business context of the project. These pieces of information include client requirements and technical needs. Doing so will enable each member to know and fulfill their roles.
3. Enhancing the Work Environment
It is up to the team leaders to set the tone of how their teams work. Providing a positive, engaging, and focused working environment will motivate teams to work hard.
4. Managing Conflicts and Issues
Team leaders should always have ways to mitigate arising problems. One way to do this is to perform risk analysis for possible issues constantly. By doing assessments, they can make the right decisions to solve emerging issues and prevent potential problems from coming up.
5. Fostering Good Communications
Teams that work well always have clear and open communication lines. And, it is the team leader who fosters these lines. They should provide constructive criticisms and allow each member to voice out their concerns. They must listen to feedback and make the necessary actions or corrections.
6. Tracking Progress and Making Reports
Team leaders are the bridge between the team to the management and clients. Therefore, they properly evaluate the project and set milestones and deadlines. However, their task doesn’t stop there. They should track the project’s status and make sure that the team is working within the set deadlines.
Furthermore, their reports should be factual and clear so that both the client and the team have the right expectations. Through constant tracking, team leads can assess when to make the proper adjustments.
7. Onboarding New Members
When new recruits come, it is the team leader’s responsibility to ensure they have everything they need. This includes working stations, equipment, access to resources, and more. Team leaders should also orient, mentor, and evaluate the new members.
8. Evaluating Individual Performances
Clients always want to have competent individuals to do their projects. Hence, team leaders must properly evaluate their members’ competencies and capabilities. To augment deficiencies, they should provide solutions through personnel management, training, mentorships, and other programs.
Team leaders have a lot of responsibilities. That is why they need to have the right skills and attitude to fulfill their roles.
As leaders, they should lead by example by getting the job done. And to do their job, they need to have the following qualifications and skills:
- A degree in computer sciences, business management, or any related fields
- Experience in managing a software development team
- Strong leadership and team-building skills
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
- Experience in coaching, training, and mentoring
- Knowledge in software development life cycle
- Proficiency in making and presenting reports
- Exceptional analytical, risk assessment, and planning skills
Team leaders may not focus on the technical side of software development; having a background in it is a huge plus. Their experience will allow them to understand their team members better.
Tech Lead Vs. Team Lead: Who do you need more?
To answer this question, you need to know each role’s difference clearly. Based on what we discussed above, tech lead and team lead are two different roles.
Tech leads are responsible for making technical decisions in a project. On the other hand, team leaders focus more on managing people. Each role requires different skill sets. It makes sense that tech leads to having strong developer skills. On the other hand, team leaders need not have these skills as their focus is more on project delivery and management.
So, do you need to have both? Technically, yes! However, it depends on the company. Companies with a top-down approach can delegate technical decision-making to developers. Alternatively, companies with a flat structure can forego having team leaders.
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Hire the Best Leaders at Full Scale
It doesn’t have to be a problem whether you are #TeamTechLead or #TeamTeamLead. Software development is a fast-evolving field; hence roles can often overlap. But one thing is sure: a software development team needs leadership. Building a team can be tricky to recruit members and leaders with the US talent shortage.
This is where we come in. We, at Full Scale, specialize in providing bespoke software development services and solutions. We will help you build a software development team of experts and leaders. With our comprehensive recruitment process and offshore team management, we can guarantee that your software project is in good hands.
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