On Becoming A Tech Lead

Is becoming a tech lead just like having children? Absolutely not! But I found at least one parallel.

My coworker Chris recently asked me for advice on being a new parent. He and his partner are expecting a baby in the next couple months, and he was curious how I, father of two above-average children, recommended he prepare.

I believe my exact words were:

lolololol OMFG there is nothing you can do to prepare for children.

~ me

He asked "but are there any books or resources you recommend?"

I said "ha ha ha ha ha NO. You can't possibly prepare."

And then we went on our way.

I felt awful afterward. I realized that I did a terrible job of getting my point across. If I even knew what my point was! I thought about it for the next day, trying to figure out what I was really trying to say.

My actual advice for new parents

I went back to Chris to apologize for my awful advice. He assured me he wasn't terrified by my advice, but it's pretty obvious that he could have been terrified by it.

I explained what I meant:

There is nothing you can do to prepare for children, in the sense that it doesn't really matter. Every day is going to be something you've never dealt with before. Parenthood is messy - there is no guidebook, because every baby is different, and so is every family. You're basically making shit up the entire time, and you're on very little sleep so you're not even making shit up well.

But that is what's beautiful about it. You get through it, every single day. Some of the days are miserable - you start the day already ego-depleted, and you have to somehow get to the end of the day and take care of your baby who won't stop screaming and then not be a jerk to the ones you love and you still haven't eaten anything because you don't have time. But you get through it....together....with your baby...and your partner.

And it's beautiful but terrifying, but you forget all the bad stuff, and two years later you decide you want another baby.

~ me

But like....tech leads and stuff?

I might have buried the lede a bit - last week I was chosen to be the tech lead on my team! :partycat:

In the transition, my team's previous tech lead did a great job of sharing all the things he's been doing, to help me prepare. He wrote up a ton of docs, which were all really great. He said "I'm still here for a week - let me know if you have any questions." I said "I will definitely hit you up before you leave."

But I never hit him up.

When I realized this afternoon that I never reached out to him for more advice, and that he'd officially left Artsy by now, I worried that I'd missed an opportunity. But I realized that the things I'm going to need the most help with are all contextual. He couldn't possibly transfer all his system and organization knowledge to me, and if he could, I couldn't possibly absorb it. And it probably wouldn't matter anyway, because every situation will likely require context and nuance, which isn't a thing that can be knowledge-transferred.

I realized that I've found a parallel between becoming a tech lead and becoming a parent. I've prepared myself to head into this tech lead position the same way I recommended Chris prepare for parenthood: not at all. Knowing that every situation is going to be unique, and probably difficult, but I'm going to figure it out. Or not - and that's okay, too.

And then in a couple years I'll probably want another baby, or team, or something. Or maybe kittens.