JavaOne – 10 tips to become an awesome tech lead

“10 tips to become an awesome tech lead”

Speaker: Bart Blommaerts

For more blog posts from JavaOne, see the table of contents

Not one free seat in the room and long wait list line. [I wait listed and left the keynote 5 minutes early to ensure I got in]

Role of Tech Lead

  • Provide tech leadership
  • Protect team from interruptions
  • What new libraries/frameworks should we use? What are risks?
  • Coaching
  • Communication – bridge gap between devs an business

Do we need one

  • In ideal world, don’t need tech lead
  • Hard to do everything by consensus
  • Unlike the lego movie, everything is not always awesome
  • Business still needs point of contact
  • New people still need training

The ten tips

  1. Advocate for change – don’t want people to be afraid of prod, need to evolve. Try to make stupid processes better. OODE – observe/orient/decide/act
  2. Work through failure and success – prepare for failure, don’t finger point (“we”), take responsibility, learn from failure, problem if you are fixing the same bug twice – that is process failure. Celebrate success – sprint celebrations, feature complete, congratulate team/individuals
  3. Stay technical – write code, review code, tech vision (and get buy in; ideally with everyone contributing to it), evolution of code. Don’t forget about security/networking
  4. Time management – be available – spending time on tech design, talking to the business, project management (ex: help write user stories) and code
  5. Be a mentor for your team – facilitate discussion. Help team becomes stronger developers. Delegate. Optimize for the group/team
  6. Surround yourself with other tech leads – on a personal level, see what others do to get ideas and learn. On an organizational level, look at common org/architecture along with interoperability/dependencies
  7. Interviewing potental new team members – know your goals. For short term,, looking at tooling. For longer term, look at eagerness to learn. Don’t use stack overflow to find questions; pick things relevant to your project
  8. Embrace cultural differences – diversity, culture, family. Your users are different too.
  9. Estimating is hard – “Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”. Planning poker. Uncertainty is normal. Add 20% for test/debug/polish/documentation/wtf moments.
  10. Interfacing with the outside world – want to be the go-to person, but not the single point of failure
  11. Faciliate an agile and awesome team

Other notes/tips

  • Not difficult for tech lead to make things worse
  • Need to experience same pain as everbody else on team – you are part of the team
  • Be realistic. Not possible to answer every question. Also, need to connect teammates to each other. Ok to request time to look into a question as long as you get back to them. Also ok to suggest pairing.
  • Not making a decision is worse than making the wrong decision becuase not doing any work
  • Interview style – comfort people (they are nervous; start with a siimple question like “what is the difference between an interface and abstract class in Java”), offer options, build on responses like “what is the difference between interfaces/abstract classes in Java 8”, show interest, bonus question
  • Offshoring – work gets done while sleeping, communication harder. Prepare work for remote teammates since they can’t talk directly to business. Harder to make everyone feel like part of team. ex do a night shift “most developers work better at night” [I am so non standard here!] Keep history ex: Slack

He commented about people working nights the last couple sprints to ensure success on the project. [That sounds completely against the sprint of sprints being sustainable]

My take: Nice to have a good tech soft skills talk. I noticed that Bart referred to “technical lead” as “he” whenever he used a pronoun. I wonder if it’s like that in his native language. Google translate says both tech lead and developer use “le” (are masculine) in French. This was more obvious at the beginning; he switched to “you” after a bit. And he said he/she later on.

2 thoughts on “JavaOne – 10 tips to become an awesome tech lead

  1. Hi Jeanne,

    Thank you the live blog and the nice words. I heard a lot of people were not able to enter the room as it filled up quickly. I will post something on Twitter when I’m doing it at some other conference in the future (eg. Devoxx in Antwerp later this year).

    Gender is absolutely not relevant for Technical Leads. I tried to make this implicit in one of my slides: Since I’m not a native English speaker, I will pay more attention to it in future talks. Thank you for your feedback.

    Bart Blommaerts

  2. Agreed. It was only at the beginning that you repeatedly said “he”. I imagined it wasn’t a political statement :). I’m female and noticed so I wrote it down

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