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Anatomy of a Software Development Role: Development Lead

  • May 26, 2005
  • By Robert Bogue
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Where's the position heading anyway?

The path forward for a DL is directly into the SA role. The skills of the SA are very similar to those of a DL and vary only by experience, breadth, and responsibility. Movement to the SA role is simple but difficult. Because there are relatively few SAs in the world, even fewer than there are DLs, the path up is largely about being in the right place at the right time to make the advancement.

Of course, the willingness to take a larger portion of the development lead work, the willingness to help out and support the SA when they get overwhelmed, and a willingness to take on challenging projects will certainly help.

The bad news about the DL role is being squeezed. SAs are sometimes being forced to take positions as DLs leaving fewer positions available for truly qualified DLs to fill. The movement towards global software development is changing the way that the DLs must think and operate in ways that make it more difficult to do a quality job and to distinguish themselves from regular developers.

The market continues to consume more and more developers bringing hope to the need for the position. The resurgence of interest in the software development lifecycle is once again helping organizations of every size to realize the value that a few key roles can play.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

With any position there are good things, some bad, and a few ugly. The development lead position is no different.

  • Good: Position with advancement - The solutions architect role is just a hop, skip, and a jump up the proverbial corporate ladder. The solution architect role only requires a bit more experience and a few more skills. It's easily within reach of a development lead.
  • Good: If a developer likes to code, then the Developer Lead role allows them to be promoted and yet still be able to spend some of their time coding if they want.
  • Bad: Monkey in the middle - The position has the potential to get struck between the grand vision of the solution owner and the reality that is available from the developers on the project. Occasionally, that gap is to far for anyone to bridge.
  • Bad: Keeping up with new technology, while enjoyable, can be time consuming.
  • Ugly: When there is more "hands-on" coding to be done than there are regular developers, then the Developer Lead is usually the first person pulled onto coding.
  • Ugly: The DL can be presented with a great vision but do not have the technology (due to cost or politics) or products to implement it effectively.

Conclusion

The DL role is a pivotal one that is both a natural progression from the developer role and a step away from the solution architect role. With their feet grounded in the world of code and their brains thinking about how to make things better they are the critical link between the vision of the SA and the reality of the project. Despite the challenges the DL role is a very rewarding one particularly as you see projects come together and developers get better at their craft.

About the Author

Robert Bogue, MCSE (NT4/W2K), MCSA:Security, A+, Network+, Server+, I-Net+, IT Project+, E-Biz+, CDIA+ has contributed to more than 100 book projects and numerous other publishing projects. He writes on topics from networking and certification to Microsoft applications and business needs. Robert is a strategic consultant for Crowe Chizek in Indianapolis. Some of Robert's more recent books are Mobilize Yourself!: The Microsoft Guide to Mobile Technology, Server+ Training Kit, and MCSA Training Guide (70-218): Managing a Windows 2000 Network. He was honored to become a Microsoft MVP for Microsoft Windows Server - Networking. You can reach Robert at Robert.Bogue@CroweChizek.com



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