What team leads do
At Nebulab, we don't have official project managers. Because we often provide team augmentation services or work on projects that are not complex enough to justify a full-time PM, we decided to go with a hybrid role and have Team Leads instead.
Team Leads act as informal project managers on the project they're assigned to, defining and prioritizing issues, coordinating the team's work and handling communication with the client. However, they are still very much hands-on and write code every day along with the rest of their team. We feel like this is the perfect amount of structure for the time being.
Being a team lead is as much a privilege as it is a chore:
- Team leads do not get nearly as much time for technical work as individual contributors - realistically, a team lead can expect to spend half their time writing code and the other half managing the project and the team.
- Team leads are rarely able to work on their own Friday projects, because their Fridays are usually occupied by company-level initiatives.
- All this management work is not as visible as technical contributions, so if you're someone who needs a very tight feedback loop (i.e. you need to immediately see the results of your work), you might find this role to be frustrating.
- As a team lead, you are accountable for the work done by other people. At times, this can feel like you don't have as much control as you used to, because you won't be able to fix every issue by yourself anymore.
You should keep in mind that being a team lead is not the only way to advance in Nebulab: there is always room for people to grow as individual contributors, and you shouldn't feel pressured to get into the role just because you think it's the only option.
If you still want to become a team lead, with all the pros and cons that entails, read on!
Applying as a team lead
The first step to become a team lead is to talk to your mentor. They will help you figure out if you are ready and where to start. One thing to keep in mind is that we can only have one team lead per project, so there might not be space for new team leads even though you are a good fit. If that's the case, just be patient and wait for the next project!
We usually assign team leads to projects where they already have experience as an IC. If that's not possible (because the project doesn't warrant or already has a team lead), we'll find a suitable project for you where you can take on the new role.
Of course, you will still hold regular 1:1s with your mentor, who will follow your progress and give you advice on how to improve your team lead skills.