re: From Coding To Management To Leadership VIEW POST


The straight path continues through a familiar technical landscape. In this direction, most problems are solvable logically and intellectually, with tools and systems built to help. The biggest challenge on the technical path is keeping relevant with the time.

I find myself heading down the technical path (which is difficult... many organizations setup management as the only real advancement path). But I don't agree with your characterization... technical is a hard, scary path too. As a technical lead, the problems I need to solve often have no obvious answer. Usually the key to finding the "right" way is seeing the issue from as many perspectives as I can. IOW, picking the most optimal trade-offs for all parties concerned. And this is a shifting target. It is a large responsibility, and often even my spare time is focused on research. Being a technical lead requires you to be business-aware and people-aware, but primarily for being able to translate these concerns into technical qualities of the software / operations.

Leading on the technical path requires soft skills too. Often my day is mostly spent mentoring or helping people work through problems they are stuck on. Usually we just talk it through, but sometimes pairing is involved. From time to time, I need to talk with customers and stakeholders to try to understand the goals behind their feature requests. I also have user stories to finish, often ones related to architecture (e.g. implement optimistic concurrency so I can go with fully stateless services, enable blue-green deployments, etc) or canary-ing new integrations which others can add onto later. At times it is hard to get my own stories done among all the other things. But that's ok! I took the path because enjoy learning and growing technically. And that has certainly been happening. :)


Thank you for your note. I don't disagree with anything you said. The tech path is very hard.
In my post, I said that it is "familiar" making the assumption that the reader is a developer who is familiar with the difficulties of that path.
For a developer, management can appear scary because it is a completely new direction.
I had no intention to imply that the technical path is easy or relaxing. Far from it. I also agree with you that technical leadership requires many soft skills, even if you are not managing the people you work with.
The biggest difference is in the type of problems you need to contend with using soft skills. As a tech lead you can keep it technical, so you need to know how to approach developers on technical subjects. As a manager, you have to add the soft skills necessary to deal with much more personal issues such as friction between employees, health issues, promotions and raises, performance issues, team building activities, career management, career mentoring, etc. Those are the kinds of things that, in my experience, make management "scary" for tech types.

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