What is the Difference Between a Tech Lead vs. Dev Lead?


Considering a career in technology can be a bit confusing. Two of the most common leadership roles include a Tech Lead and a Lead Developer. There are a few different titles for these jobs, and their similarities can make it difficult to understand why they’re different, but I’ll give you the insight you need.

Answer: The difference between a Tech Lead and a Dev Lead is that the Tech Lead comes up with the solutions and strategy and the Dev Lead is the leader of the team that gets the job done using tactics. A Tech Leader will analyze the situation and figure out the best course of action. A Lead Developer will follow through with the process.

Another way to look at it is the Tech Lead is the General, and the Dev Lead is the Commander. Strategy vs. Tactics. Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following info about the differences between the lead developer and tech leader:

  • Numerous differences that make them entirely dissimilar
  • Pros and cons of both careers
  • How you can find out which one is right for you

The Differences Between Lead Developers and Tech Leads

Two high-tech jobs, both of which have ‘lead’ in the title, are similar yet different. How can that be possible? If you’re unfamiliar with the industry and trying to choose a career path, it can be frustrating. Whoever came up with the job titles isn’t doing you any favors, but you’re about to learn how different they are from one another.

Here’s a list of five differences between Lead Developer (Dev Lead) and Tech Lead positions:

  1. According to Yellow Duck Guy, Tech Leads are the people who plan the technical side of the equation, whereas Lead Developers complete the task. Lead Developers usually instruct a team of developers about how they can go through with the plans. If they have any concerns or issues, they’ll consult with the Tech Lead.
  2. The Tech Lead worries about the business’s financial side, ensuring that the Dev Lead doesn’t stray from the budget. It’s not the Lead Developer’s job to focus on the budget, though it’s a huge favor to the Tech Lead if they do. When they need a financial boost or more resources such as servers or talent, they’ll meet with the Tech Lead.
  3. The Lead Developer often holds meetings to keep their team on the right task. On the other hand, the Tech Leader makes sure that there aren’t any technical challenges or risks to the project. If they notice anything going out of line, they’ll contact the Lead Developer and have them address their team in a meeting.
  4. It’s the Lead Developer’s job to ensure that their team is creating usable, efficient code. When they’re satisfied with the project, the Tech Lead will examine and test the code to make sure that it’s updated and ready to go. It’s not uncommon for the project to go back and forth a few times with both positions doing regular code reviews of the pull requests.
  5. Tech Leads keep Dev Leads informed about any possible issues that might arise during the project. They typically don’t hold as many meetings as the Dev Lead, but a couple of calls might be in order. The Lead Dev takes this information and mentors their development team. Whereas the Tech Lead is often the one communicating with the customer, the Product Owner, business owner, or end-user.

As you can see, these two jobs are quite different from one another. It might seem like the Tech Lead is always in charge, but that’s not the case. While they’re often known as the manager of Lead Developer (or at least a mentor and advisor), the Lead Developer is the one that’s in charge of the team of developers.

If you want more information about these two jobs and which one you should choose, keep reading the following sections.

Should You Consider Being a Tech Lead?

Do you want to become a Tech Lead? It’s quite a daunting task, but many people think they want the title for the money. It requires an in-depth knowledge of programming and similar topics. If you’re not ready to lead a team, test, and review, and push through conflict, then it might be a tough job.

Consider these three questions before you pursue being a tech lead:

Are you capable of speaking your mind?

Free Code Camp mentions that Tech Leads are often the people who have to speak their mind, even if it’s not what the team wants to hear. They typically have the final say of whether or not the job is completed, which means they need to communicate effectively. If you’re able to handle that part of the business, you’ll be set.

From first-hand experience, I can tell you if you are not ready to hold your own against people that you may see as superior such as your boss, then you will fail at this job and hate your daily work life. You must be ready to stand your ground and be the unpopular person when you know the decision your making and leading the team toward is correct.

Do you know a lot about coding?

Coding is the focal point of being a tech lead. You’ll never be able to jump into the position without possessing plenty of knowledge of the industry. If there’s an error, you’re the person that the engineers approach to know what they need to do. It’s your job to mentor and train people who are confused.

Tech Leads, in many cases, are former Lead Developers, and it is recommended but not required to follow this path simply so you will have the programming experience and coding knowledge to give in-depth code reviews and make course corrections when necessary.

Are you a social person?

Tech Leads don’t have as much socialization with the development team as Lead Developers with the daily meetings, but they’ll handle plenty of group meetings with customers and end-users. If you’re reclusive or anti-social, you might find it challenging to be an effective Tech Lead. Fortunately, this part of the job is often a breeze for people who are passionate about coding. If you can remain enthusiastic and in charge of the technical aspects, you can become a successful Tech Lead.

Is a Dev Lead a Worthwhile Career?

Much like being a Tech Lead, a Dev Lead needs to possess leadership skills. They should think for the team, not themselves. It’s safe to say that team-oriented people have a greater chance of success as a Dev Lead.

These three questions will help you consider if being a Dev Lead is right for you:

Are you motivated and knowledgeable?

Being a Lead Developer means that you have to be willing to learn new things around the clock. Coding is an ever-changing career that keeps you on your toes. You need to know everything about the current technologies and libraries while also learning about what’s coming next. This part of the job requires constant motivation to continue learning new things and growing in your skill.

More often than you might assume, people in the development career path need to make a choice. One of the exciting things that happen when you move from Senior Developer to Dev Lead is a reduction in the amount of coding you do and an increase in management and learning, but with this learning also comes a need for a lot of teaching.

Can you think for the greater good of the team?

Being a Lead Developer requires teamwork. You have to think as a leader, not a boss. You need to be able to instruct your team about how they can improve and complete the task. Rather than telling them what to do, you’ll have to immerse yourself in the project and figure out how you can work together. This strategy can drastically improve the workplace environment.

Having a few leadership classes can help with mindset and approach, but the biggest thing you can do is remember this is a growth position where most of the growth is something you want to happen in your positions.

Can you speak in layman’s terms?

A significant part of the Dev Lead’s job is communicating with the people who hired your team. Most companies don’t know the technical terms, so you’ll have to break it down in layman’s terms without getting frustrated. If you’re able to communicate in front of large groups of people while explaining coding in simple terms, you might be cut out for the job.

Conclusion

There are many differences between Lead Developers and Tech Leads. The job titles might sound similar, but they’re far from the same career. However, communication, attention to detail, and leadership skills are required for both of them. Mastering these traits will give you your choice of either depending on the direction you want to go.

Here’s a quick recap of the post:

  • Tech Leads handle the technical side of the operation.
  • Both titles need to be able to communicate and mentor their team.
  • Tech Leads test the code, whereas Lead Devs instruct the team to build the code.
  • Both jobs require vast knowledge of coding and computing.

Other Resources

Simple Programmer – Some Advice On Becoming a Lead Developer

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