Take the 2-minute tour ×
Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm looking for some examples of experiences from people who have made the move from programmer to team leader. I'm kind of wanting to know the reasons why people have done it. Specifically, these are some questions and concerns that are floating around in my head.

  • Did you have a waning desire to write code but still a strong desire to create programs?
  • Did you realise that you were more of a people person and you could utilise your communication skills better?
  • Was it because you were asked by management and thought why not?
  • For the money?
  • How were the initial few months after making the move?
  • Were relations with colleagues affected?
share|improve this question

closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, Robert Harvey, BЈовић, MichaelT, Martin Wickman Aug 9 '13 at 10:55

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

7 Answers 7

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I made this type of change a few years ago. In my particular place, I was feeling ineffective in my development role at that time, and looked at the leadership role as an opportunity to influence better programming practices in my organization.

It was a difficult transition for the first few months, as I found there was a significant amount of overhead which took away my ability to code. In addition, there was the tentativeness of not wanting to overstep my boundaries.

After a few months, my boss was sick for a few weeks, which left me doing alot of her management duties in her absence. During that time, I realized more freedom to make decisions, at which point I was able to make changes to our processes which allowed me to make more efficient use of my time. This was the real key to being successful in the role, just don't be afraid to make decisions.

As far as some of your specific questions:

  • I was frustrated by the lack of time available to do development, it took about a year to find the right balance
  • I spent alot of time honing my interpersonal skills, which has made me a stronger leader in all walks of life
  • I was asked by management and there was a slight pay increase, but my main motivation was career development
  • Relationships with colleagues were fine. I believe this is because I put in a strong effort to work as an advocate for the team, and was motivated to act for their benefit. In this regard, I was working with them as opposed to above them.
share|improve this answer
    
"just don't be afraid to make decisions", an important point that is probably missed by many articles on this topic –  Adrien Be Sep 22 at 11:15

I became a team/technical lead because I love making technical teams kick-ass :-). I'm a big believer in the power of technical teams/communities to make a lot of positive change in the world.

Did you have a waning desire to write code but still a strong desire to create programs?

I still have a strong desire to write code and build useful stuff, but I'm equally (if not more so) driven to try and have a positive effect on a team of people that build software. I try to focus on removing all of the barriers to them getting on and designing and writing great code.

Did you realise that you were more of a people person and you could utilise your communication skills better?

I very much enjoy the social part of my work yes, I believe that software development is at its heart a social activity as well as a technical/engineering one.

Was it because you were asked by management and thought why not?

The very first time I was a technical lead - yes. At that time it was simply because I was the only one who knew the technology at hand (Web based Java stuff).

For the money?

Nope - for me I'd have earned more per day or per hour as a straight developer. Team/Technical leads do tend to have to put in longer hours. YMMV on this.

How were the initial few months after making the move?

A balancing act! The politics and 'soft skill' stuff was definitely the hardest. Technical decisions etc were easier, but you get very little time to actually code until you are more experienced at managing your time.

Were relations with colleagues affected?

Initially yes - I was much younger than the rest of the team - it was a delicate balancing act of learning the art of software development from them as well as leading from the 'new technology' front.

HTH!

share|improve this answer

I've worked as a team and project manager on a number of big projects. I did it because I was the most experienced developer there. In my opinion, it is crucial that team leaders and development managers are very strong programmers in their own right, and that they keep on writing (and possibly more importantly) reviewing code for the project.

As For your specific questions:

  • Did you have a waning desire to write code but still a strong desire to create programs?

Nope - I kept on writing code. See above.

  • Did you realise that you were more of a people person and you could utilise your communication skills better?

I'm not more of a people person, but I do have excellent communication skills - neither were a motivation.

  • Was it because you were asked by management and thought why not?

To a certain extent. Someone has after all got to make you a leader/manager in hierarchical business situations.

  • For the money?

Certainly helps!

  • How were the initial few months after making the move?

Fine as far as team and development management was concerned, not so fine in dealing with external politics, which is the fly in the ointment for this role.

  • Were relations with colleagues affected?

Not at all.

share|improve this answer
    
Why is it necessary to still be a strong programmer when you're a TL or manager? Isn't having a strong overview of the technical aspects of projects enough? –  John Shaft Jun 14 '11 at 7:50
6  
@Pablo No, it isn't. You are supposed to be in charge of what the team is doing, and you are the one that needs to provide things like time estimates, evaluations of changes to the architecture etc. You can't do those things unless you are yourself a strong developer and know the codebase well. If you don't you just degenerate into a pointy-haired boss. –  nbt Jun 14 '11 at 7:56
1  
I feel your pain about the external politics, but it's one of the most important things you do for your team. –  MarkJ Jun 14 '11 at 9:27
1  
@Mark Oh sure, I know that. Doesn't mean I have to like it though. The time I had to fly from London to New Jersey and back for a one hour meeting was particularly painful! –  nbt Jun 14 '11 at 9:33

I moved into management 15 years ago. My initial reason for doing it were that I saw myself as somebody who needed to achieve a career , and that was the path to it. Over the years this has given way to the desire to move things forward that are bigger than a single man can handle.

My desire to write code has never waned over the years, and sometimes it gets a bit in the way. I had to learn to put my own desires to one side and do what is best for the team, especially as a Scrum Master. I have never been more of a people person, and I had to learn many management skills. What I have observed, though, over the years, is that if you want to get into management you have to make a choice. You can either be a (commercially) successful manager or you can be a good team leader. Very few people manage to be both at the same time (and in some companies it is literally impossible). In most places I have been, top management's only priority is money, and all other things such as team building, quality, community values, etc. count for absolutely nothing. Those are the companies where (as a team leader or middle manager) you have to choose which side you are on.

My first few months were comparatively easy because I moved from one part of the company to another when I changed into management, so there was no conflict with old colleagues.

The increase in money was welcome, but I now find that if you don't follow through into senior management you can achieve the same by just being an excellent sw engineer and selling yourself appropriately (and believe me, considering the headaches and stresses of a middle management job, that is actually an enticing idea).

share|improve this answer

I made the leap into team lead world at my last job. I was chosen by my manager because he was impressed with my work and wanted to see if I could handle more. I decided to give it a shot and run with it.

The first few months were shaky, some missed deadlines and some very bad code, but I eventually got the hang of it.

As a team lead I found that I still wrote a lot of code, I just happened to be watching other people's code and progress as well.

As for relationships with my colleagues, they were not affected too much. I took a distance ed course shortly after becoming a team lead called 'Building Teams that Work'. It spelled out a lot of the soft skills and how to bring a team together. I took some of the advice from that course and applied it to my team and it really worked.

You have to make sure the your colleagues don't see you as leaving them behind, you are skill working with them and now for them. Some will think they are working for you, but imo it's the team lead's job to make sure they have all the tools in information they need to succeed. When they succeed the team succeeds.

Just my two cents :)

share|improve this answer

I'm doing it because there is too much work and not enough me. My plan is to hire people who need little supervision. Ideally they will be much better than me, and I will be able to just point them at a problem, then just sit back and take credit.

share|improve this answer
    
hahaha. "Ideally they will be much better than me, and I will be able to just point them at a problem, then just sit back and take credit." –  Adrien Be Sep 22 at 11:24

Typically in my experience the only criteria is seniority, which varies depending on luck; if you get in and the guys there longer leave, you're the senior developer now (although that may not be a good thing, depending on the reasons why others left...) and will be made the lead as more people are hired, or just being a Smithers/Yes-Man to management no matter what. Actual skill and knowledge seems to have very little to do with it, as I've only run into a handful of "leads" during my career that knew enough to be leads - in most cases they just had been at the company the longest.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.