When the Rookie Becomes the Vet: Soft Skills for First-Time Tech Leads

Imagine this: you’ve just embarked on your journey into software development, securing a coveted position at a prestigious consulting firm. You’re surrounded by brilliant engineers, and every day is a whirlwind of questions, debugging sessions, and countless “PR feedback” commits. It’s an exhilarating experience, and you’ve been thriving in the ever-evolving landscape of coding, hardly noticing how much you’ve grown.

But one day, your boss approaches you with a new opportunity – to lead your very first project. Congratulations! The initial excitement may give way to nervousness, but deep down, you know you’re ready. Here, I’ll share key insights and essential strategies to help tech leads navigate the thrilling but challenging transition seamlessly.

Build trust.

Whether you’re tackling complex coding challenges, coordinating projects across distributed teams, or ensuring the client’s requirements are met, it all boils down to effective communication. And what’s the foundation of effective communication? Trust.

Whether it’s a client team or an internal team, tech leads will face friction every step of the way if they don’t establish trust, so it’s paramount that you start here.

Lead by example.

The most effective means of establishing trust is leading by example. It is your responsibility to model the behavior you expect from your team and to cultivate an environment where the project and those involved are successful.

One practical way to lead by example is to consider if someone depends on your work to carry out their tasks tomorrow. Striving for reliability reinforces your commitment to the project’s success.

Communicate effectively.

The more players involved, the greater the emphasis on communication must be. When your team or client reaches out with questions or concerns, aim to respond promptly. Even if you don’t have all the answers immediately, acknowledging their communication and providing an estimated timeline for resolution shows that you value their input.

With highly distributed teams, it’s common to have little overlapping face time, making asynchronous communication paramount. Being transparent about your thought process, project progress, and potential challenges is a surefire way to build trust. Transparency demonstrates that you’re not hiding anything, and you’re open to feedback and collaboration.

Be empathetic.

In this ball game, it’s not always easy, but an often overlooked aspect of earning trust is having empathy. It’s not easy to have a stranger come into your life and suggest changing everything you do. So for tech leads, it’s pertinent to actively listen and demonstrate that you care about their well-being and success.

With this in mind, remember not to take things too personally when facing resistance. By focusing on these core soft skills, you’ll surely gain the trust of your team and have an easier time spreading your influence across the project.


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