Here at Agile Fuel, we know a thing or two about building and scaling successful companies – and scaling engineering teams within them. We’re entrepreneurs ourselves; this isn’t our first rodeo. Anyone who’s built a venture from the ground up will tell you the process is as much about learning lessons as developing a thriving business. While it’s hard work starting a company, the experience is invaluable, and one of the lessons we learned early on is that often, who you hire first really matters.
Sure, when you’re starting out, hires are important regardless. When you’re starting lean, it’s even more vital to get appointments right and think about requirements in as much detail as possible. Where recruitment can really make a stand-out difference in the longer term is when you’re looking to build a technical team. It’s incredibly beneficial if you can appoint an excellent team leader when you first hire. Back when we started our first company, we were lucky enough to get the person who would later become a VP of Engineering, and they’re still priceless now. As a driver of technical processes, as an innovator, and crucially, as a motivator of teams.
What Does a Technical Team Lead Need? Scaling Engineering Teams by Growing them Organically
That’s not to say that your first hire absolutely needs to be the finished article when it comes to leading and motivating; in fact, far from it. Not all leaders are born that way, and it’s entirely possible to develop the skills necessary to become great. When that happens, being technically proficient is an excellent place to begin. Being onboard early helps an eventual team lead gain a deep understanding of what makes the place tick. What’s most important is to consider candidates who’ll be the start of a team that can grow naturally as the company scales. There’s no magic formula covering how to get that first technical hire right, but effective team leads often exhibit certain leadership qualities that we wanted to share.
Soft leadership skills make teams more productive, lead to increased innovation
First up, leaders need to be good at listening to and observing others, and they need to understand people. That means taking the time to hear concerns and complaints. It also demands recognizing where strengths and weaknesses lie – be that in-house or with a distributed engineering team – and being able to delegate effectively. Having a good radar for identifying who likes doing specific tasks and which team members are comfortable in certain roles keeps confidence and morale up. It also enables leaders to know how hard to push and in which direction, leading to happier employees with higher rates of innovation and productivity.
Mentorship drives career advancements and knowledge transfer
Team leads absolutely must be good mentors. That doesn’t just mean timely pats on the back either; it’s essential to keep heads up by allowing access to training and career advancement – especially in a fast-paced industry like software development. Passing on knowledge through good mentorship inspires confidence and promotes technical excellence. Such a personal approach to training is excellent for employee retention and keeping teams together. A good team leader needs to take every opportunity to be an opportunity provider.
Technical experience identifies potential problems more quickly
A software team lead also needs to have a solid technical grasp of all the systems in place - along with current and emerging technologies. When things go wrong or off track, they have to recognize, understand, and ultimately be responsible for rectifying it too. That means being in front of issues where possible, and understanding who or what went wrong, to formulate the best possible solutions. The result is a leader who can guide teams when there’s a hiccup – and it’s more likely fast and effective solutions will be found with everyone pulling together in the same direction.
Autonomy, consistency, and trust encourage ownership
Good leadership isn’t about micro-management, but it does entail providing regular positive feedback and encouraging the right behaviors. It isn’t about waiting until there’s an issue before communicating. Agility is all about assigning the right people a task but letting them find the best ways to make things work, and that’s the art of the team lead in a nutshell. Creating a healthy sense of autonomy among team members, developing skills and trust, but never losing sight of the bigger picture. Leaders build trust by viewing problems as an opportunity to provide encouragement and mentorship, not to apportion blame. With the right guidance, groups can become greater than the sum of their parts, and excellent leaders create teams that do just that. They maintain trust by being consistent and showing the same commitment to projects that they expect from others.
Make your first hire a great team lead, and let distributed engineering take care of the rest
Distributed engineering makes scaling engineering teams a simpler, less cost-prohibitive prospect – and making your first strategic hire a team lead might just be the best thing you ever do. Outstaffing offers a flexible method for hiring the most competent, skilled staff without the drawbacks of paying high wages and investing in expensive hardware or office space. That means payroll is taken care of; equipment gets provided – all you need to do is provide the tasks and guidance required to complete your projects with an augmented team that’s fully dedicated to helping your business scale. Outstaffing isn’t dogged by communication issues like outsourcing because all the team members are dedicated only to your project, and you get access to them at all times.
Via the outstaffing model, distributed engineering is fast becoming the most efficient way to hire the best talent out there - and the go-to method for scaling engineering teams. It’s a great way to tap an extensive network of established contacts within the industry. Get 100% flexibility to scale, resources entirely at your disposal – without restrictions, and be free of the headaches and costs of finding and hiring specialized staff yourself.
Outstaffing goes way beyond traditional project support - in terms of both convenience and flexibility. You retain full control over the entire development process, but you also get the freedom to decrease or expand augmented team size precisely at the point where work demands, making the whole process more efficient. Yet, that’s all without a need for you to spend time recruiting or money on equipment and space.
Choosing the ultimate on-demand, flexible personnel resource for your next project could transform your productivity, enhance your efficiency, and simplify the way you scale. Want to find out more? Get in touch today, and discover how Agile Fuel can help your business.