3 skillsets of leadership tech roles by Handshake and Talkdesk

By December 15, 2018 ScaleUp

When companies scale their engineering teams, the challenge is always the concern of promoting engineers to leadership tech roles. Most tech engineers gravitate towards the career of doing codes because they love doing codes more than dealing with people. To be able to find engineers who can both manage other people and also be architects of the organization’s products is always a great challenge because leadership is a totally different skillset than coding.

In this “Scaling Engineering” episode of the ScaleUp Heroes Podcast, the challenge of finding great tech leaders in the engineering department in scaling organizations was the common struggle discussed by Pedro Gustavo Torres, Engineering Director at Talkdesk, and Tuomas Rinta, VP of Engineering at Handshake. Here are 3 fundamental skillsets to consider when promoting engineers to leadership tech roles.

1. Able to speak the people management language as they do with the code language

The bigger tech companies today are looking to hire tech leaders who can write codes as well as manage a team. It is a select type of skillsets where people are expected to be software engineers before they become engineering managers. There are pro’s and con’s to that because when running an engineering organization, you need to often understand what is going on in the ranks.

Particularly when the team asks a complicated coding problem, the tech lead should be able to understand what is going on and help the team in finding a solution. The distinction of the role gets challenging when tech leaders attempt to solve the coding problems by themselves rather than aligning everyone towards the goal of finding a solution.

2. Influence people but not managing them

In some companies, especially in scaling organizations, a leadership tech role does not involve people leadership but they need to have that ability to influence people in a larger scale. Architects who are responsible for the coding of a product should not expect the role of a manager. They should influence the team to make a decision.

There is a step up in technical and personal growth that they need to show and there should be a role type as well as expectations tied to that by the organization. It is often harder to show the technical leadership path to the individual contributors who are made up of engineers that don’t want to manage people but is not opposed to being subject matter experts, who are willing to teach other team members and influence them to be better contributors.

When the team has a leader who is passionate about the project, the team will be influenced too and they will more than likely succeed in any challenges of creating and maintaining a product.

3. Sustaining the momentum of the team when scaling

In any stage of scaling, there would always be new technologies and methods. The engineers assuming the leadership tech roles are expected to be responsible for the technology decisions of their teams. They should also inspire the other members to level up not only in their personal growth but of being able to stay longer in the organization and not leave because they are not growing.

The key is communicating those expectations to the people. In a scaling company, there is not much room to grow tech leaders, so leaders should paint a vision that will help the team get to that goal, anticipate the challenges ahead and adapting to the changes.

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