View profile

Level Up - Issue #81


Level Up

February 28 · Issue #81 · View online

Level Up delivers a curated newsletter for leaders in tech. A project by Ideal for busy people such as Tech Leads, Engineering Managers, VPs of Engineering, CTOs and more.

How technical does a tech leader have to be?
I get this question a lot from participants from Shortcut to Tech Leadership, so I thought it’s a good topic for this week. I have seen a huge spectrum of successful leaders, some more technical and others less technical. To answer this though, it’s useful to ask yourself, what does it mean to be technical?
Some people interpret “being technical” as “the expert at X technology or Y skill”. Where you’re leading a team of inexperienced people, you may find yourself more of the expert. Where you’re leading a team of very experienced people, you may be an expert, but often you don’t need to be because you’re surrounded by experience and expertise. Your role is ensuring everyone has opportunities to both grow their expertise but also apply their expertise to the right problems.
Other people interpret “being technical” as “someone who understands me.” I can relate because it is frustrating talking to another person if you have to explain every single detail. But being the expert and being able to demonstrate understanding is not the same thing.
Take this to the extreme and imagine yourself as the CTO of a large company (e.g. Werner Vogels of Amazon). It’s impossible for one person to be an expert in all of the various fields and technologies. This is one of the reasons effective leaders look to build teams of people who complement each other rather than duplicate one another.
In reality the answer to this question doesn’t matter. Leaders should focus on how to best multiply their team. Sometimes that will require drawing on your technical knowledge but often it won’t. The best leaders I have worked with know how to ask questions, learn enough information to help their team or to redirect people to resources or other people that can.
Enjoy this week’s edition. If you find Level Up useful, please forward to someone you think would benefit. Stay safe and healthy 🙏
Want to level up your technical leadership skills? Sign up for the online workshop, “Shortcut to Tech Leadership” or take a self-paced course at the

How technical should leaders be is not easy to measure, but is also a distraction
How technical should leaders be is not easy to measure, but is also a distraction
Sponsored Content
Free Meetup: Portia Tung on “Living Well at Work”
Effective leadership begins with ourselves. This playful workshop will help develop your active listening, questioning and self-awareness skills. Learn more @ Skills Matter
The Tyranny of Feelings
Investing In People Always Pays Off
Mistakes I've Made as an Engineering Manager
An online workshop to level up your tech leadership skills. Next dates Mar 17, Apr 21. Click the banner to register now.
An online workshop to level up your tech leadership skills. Next dates Mar 17, Apr 21. Click the banner to register now.
10 Years of (D3) Open-Source Visualization
A software update has caused some Roombas to misbehave, and iRobot is working on a fix
Good Fences Make Good Neighbours
Want to sponsor an issue or advertise a leadership role?
🌟🌟🌟 Reach thousands of engineering leaders around the world. Maybe you want to share a leadership role you’re looking to fill? Interested in becoming a sponsor? Get in touch for details. 🌟🌟🌟
Organisation & Processes
CEO Secrets: 'My billion pound company has no HR department' - BBC News
AI Screening tools: Objective or Biased?
How we rolled out our Kubernetes platform
Tech Leaders, where is your Team?
Interesting tweets
Great food for thought 🧐 Similarly applies to process and culture
Michael Hibay
A great quote I heard recently was something like architecture exists even if you don’t explicitly define it.

It gets me thinking about boundaries, and how they exist even when we don’t try to make them.

The only way to change them is to become more explicit.

And that’s hard.
Another reason to be very very cautious about accelerating media being distributed, particularly when feeling emotional 🤯😱 (See video 👇)
lauren white
Deep fakes are getting scary good and taking over TikTok. Every public figure should just be on there with a verified account - even if they don’t want to make content - to make it easier to identify their fakes. Here’s Tom Cruise:
Thanks for making it this far! 🤗
If you enjoyed this newsletter, please send me feedback and share with others!
Want to level up your technical leadership skills? Watch out for future dates for the Shortcut to Tech Leadership online workshop, or check out self-paced courses at the Tech Lead Academy including “Time Management for Technical Leaders” and “Fundamentals of Systems Thinking”.
Did you enjoy this issue?
If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Powered by Revue
Patrick Kua, Postfach 58 04 40, 10314, Berlin, Germany