I wasn’t always a team leader, I used to be a developer, I can clearly remember the day when that all changed. I’d spoken to my department head a month ago. In a recent project I’d not only been the lead developer but I’d been helping out and doing a lot of project management tasks. It had been fun and interesting but it had taken a lot of time and meant I couldn’t do as much coding as I wanted.
I’d spoken to my boss and said, for my next project I wanted to stick to the development, he said, “Sure, no problem, there’s a few new projects coming up, I’ll get back to you.” I was happy, it was time to get back to my technical skills and learn about a few new Java frameworks, after all technology moves fast, you don’t want to get left behind.
So, when my department head asked me for a meeting, I was excited, time to change projects I thought. We sat down, then came the bombshell, your team leader has resigned. My head was spinning, I thought “oh no” that means we’re all going to have put in extra overtime to make the deadlines. Then came the second bombshell, “and we’d like you to take over.” That was not what I’d expected, I was the youngest person in the team, I was working in a foreign country and didn’t even speak the language. My words failed me, I think I managed to mumble a “thank you” but what I really thought was “Do I want to be a team leader?” I thought I wanted to do some “real work”, ie get back to some coding.
I was unsure, was I up to the job? Could I lead the team? Would they think of me differently once I was their “boss”?
I took the job. At the time, it was a big step up, I needed some support, I needed some help. If you’re reading this now then perhaps you’re in a similar situation to me back then. This blog is written to help you!
As a developer here are three concrete questions:
- It’s easy for a techie/developer to underestimate his/her own skills and value to the team. If there are lots of competent project managers and consultants about it’s easy to feel like an insignificant cog in the system. But you should be prepared and answer this question right now. “Do I want to be a team leader?”
- This question may come as a surprise. Unlike a lot of professions the skills and desires of software developers vary massively with the skills needed to be a team leader or manager. By this I mean most account managers aspire to higher up management positions while most software developers aspire to be, well developers! You should ask yourself these two questions “Am I pro-active?”, “Does my team respect me and my decisions?” If the answer is yes to both of these then you’re probably on the radar of a number of managers in your company for a possible promotion in the future!
Stop, look at the questions above. Did you answer them? Really? I’d ask you to stop right now, write yourself an email (or even be old fashioned and get a pen and paper) Write the questions, write your answers. You never know what life will have to offer, but if you’re reading this article then I’m guessing you care and you probably are proactive. The first step is to decide what you want.