Lead programmer

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In the software engineering profession, a lead software engineer [1] [2] [3][4][5][6][7][8] is responsible for providing technical guidance and mentorship to a team of software engineers. Alternative titles include development lead, technical lead, lead programmer, or lead application developer. When primarily contributing a low-level enterprise software design with focus on the structure of the app, e.g. design patterns, the role would be a software architect (as distinct to the high-level less technical role of solutions architect.)


A lead software engineer's exact responsibilities vary from company to company, but in general they are responsible for overseeing the work, in a technical sense, of a team of software engineers working on a project, ensuring work meets the technical requirements, such as coding conventions, set by the software architect or principal engineer responsible for the underlying architecture.[9][10] A lead software engineer's duties are often "hands on", meaning they typically write software code on a daily basis, assisting their team to meet deadlines and improve the quality of the codebase. They act as a mentor for new or lower-level software developers or programmers, as well as for all the members on the development team, primarily through processes such as pair programming, conducting of code reviews, promoting good development principles, such as test-driven development, and taking the lead in correcting code defects.[11][12]

Although the responsibilities are primarily technical, lead software engineers also generally serve as an interface between the programmers and management, have ownership of their team's development plans and have supervisorial responsibilities in delegating work.[13] They ensure that sections of software projects come in on time and under budget, and assisting technically with hiring and reviewing performance of staff. Lead engineers also serve as technical advisers to management and provide programming perspective on requirements. Typically a lead engineer will oversee a development team of between two and ten programmers.[14][15][16]

A lead software engineer reports to a principal software engineer (who manages a number of teams) or chapter lead[17] (responsible for technical principles to which a number of teams must work). Technical direction may be provided by a software architect. Where teams follow the Waterfall, Extreme Programming, or Kanban approaches, the lead software engineer is referred to as an engineering manager, or a software development manager, and collaborates directly with a peer, the product owner, who gathers the customer requirements that the end product must meet. In a true Agile approach, the lead engineer collaborates with a separate position of scrum master, who acts as an intermediary seeking a compromise between business demand (product owner) and team capacity and skillset (lead engineer), e.g. which story tickets from the product backlog will be passed into the next Agile sprint.


In the nascent field of software engineering, many lead software engineers are self-taught, though formal qualifications are in increasing demand for job applications. Approximately 45% hold formal mathematics-based computer science or software engineering Bachelor's degrees, with 32% holding a Master's. [18] [19] Many complete short technical courses provided by the creators of software languages and frameworks.[20] Some lead engineers hold Chartered Engineer status from organisations such as Engineers Australia and the British Computer Society,[21] for which typically, one must have completed a Master's degree. They learn management responsibilities either on the job or through short courses.[22]


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  2. ^ "Tech Lead — everything Software Engineers need to know to become a great Technology Leader". Retrieved 22 Oct 2020.
  3. ^ "Lead Engineer at ASML". Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  4. ^ "Lead Software Engineer". www.chegg.com. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  5. ^ "Day at Work: Lead Engineer at Pinterest". Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  6. ^ "Amazon Lead Software Engineer Reviews". www.glassdoor.co.uk. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  7. ^ "Lead Software Engineer Jobs". www.reed.co.uk. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  8. ^ "Lead Engineer Salaries". Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  9. ^ "So you want to be a Tech Lead…". Retrieved 22 Oct 2020.
  10. ^ "What's the role of a tech lead?". Retrieved 22 Oct 2020.
  11. ^ "What is a Tech Lead?". Retrieved 22 Oct 2020.
  12. ^ "5 responsibilities of a Tech Lead and 17 metrics to track their performance". Retrieved 22 Oct 2020.
  13. ^ "What's The Difference Between A Senior And Lead Developer?". Retrieved 22 Oct 2020.
  14. ^ "A Guide to Technical Leads: What They Do and How to Become One". Retrieved 22 Oct 2020.
  15. ^ "Technical leader – Roles and Responsibilities". Retrieved 22 Oct 2020.
  16. ^ "Technical Lead". Retrieved 22 Oct 2020.
  17. ^ "Agile works with three leadership roles in autonomous teams". www.linkedin.com. 14 June 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  18. ^ "Lead Engineer Overview". Retrieved 22 Oct 2020.
  19. ^ "Software engineer". Retrieved 22 Oct 2020.
  20. ^ "Earn Your PHP Certification: Take The PHP Certification Exam". www.zend.com. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  21. ^ "Chartered Engineer (CEng)". www.bcs.org. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  22. ^ "8 agile certifications to take your career to the next level". Retrieved 7 July 2020.