On your way to becoming a Team Leader? Should rising through the ranks detach you from your software development fundamentals?

Most software developers will have their first professional IT position as, well, software developers.
So if you are a team leader, it is most likely that it is only your second job climbing up the ladder.
Why is it that the vast majority of software developers soon seek a different career elsewhere, as architects, designers, team leaders or project managers? The reasons are rooted deep in the role status plays in our life and will be discussed in a separate article at the Beyond Software Development series.

Contrary to common belief, code generation is still quite important for any business involved in… developing software. A lot of effort, capital, and good will are invested in order to generate code, a lot more of it, and in better quality, and if you are anywhere near the bottom where most of that code is being generated, you might want to be involved in order to know what’s really going on. And that includes software developers and team Leaders alike.
Here are four insights you need to be aware of if you are on the fast track:

  • Many team leaders have risen through the ranks by superior programming performance and are made team leaders without any (or minimal) training. Most of these “team leaders” will fail their company twice: once because they are unprepared for the job. And once because they have left their former position of superstar software developers, creating a productivity void.
  • Team leaders who don’t program every day, lose touch with reality. How can you lead software developers if you don’t know what it is that the software requires?
  • Looking up from the bottom, the rule is simple: if you are programming, you can’t lead.
    It’s better for everyone that you become a trained, professional team leader who also program, than a software developer that does part time as a team leader.
  • “A man without a smiling face must not open a shop” (An old Chinese saying) – Getting the job and doing the job are two different games. Being a good leader, which is what team leading is mostly about, requires some basic characteristics. The rest can be acquired. Make sure that a team leader is really what you want to become.
  • And remember. There is nothing wrong with being a software developer. If you are a good one, you probably figured it out already that the fundamental complexities of the job are not going to disappear anytime soon. The endless supply of technologies that promise to make everything better only really promise one thing – that you will have a constant stream of possibilities that are guaranteed to keep you challenged.