Technical Leadership...Without the Oxymoron

By Brian Bunke

Elevator Pitch

For senior technical resources, a “Team Lead” title (or worse, “Manager”) is never far away. Translate business needs, train your team…all while you’re desperately trying to remain technical for as long as you can. Consider some tips from the trenches to help iterate your leadership approach.


As a current “IT Operations Lead,” I find the constant juggling act challenging, rewarding, and fascinating. We know technology moves quickly, and most people can only hop off that train once. But internal motivations can be betrayed by many new non-technical responsibilities.

How can we responsibly carve out time to stay technical? Well, we got this far in our careers by iterating and optimizing, so why not apply the same mindset to our non-technical duties? Target optimal interactions with the business, focus on enhancing your training initiatives, and help define roles where your unique team can thrive.

With the right nurturing – and a little luck – your long-term investment will start providing dividends, and it will be up to you how to reinvest the time you’re saving.


I’ve suffered through too many frustrating conversations with colleagues who won’t trust others, and end up overworking themselves as a result. In part, I want to remind others that while some of climbing the technical ladder is giving a shit when others don’t…being a responsible leader is ceding that additional control and responsibility to those behind you.

Recently, I spoke with a vendor friend, who mentioned he doesn’t feel comfortable giving “soft skills” talks because he’s afraid his current employment will make it sound or appear inauthentic. I realized the flip side of that is customers giving soft skills talks “from the trenches.”

I’m confident I can distill these points down to some easily actionable items for attendees to consider, and I believe I can empathize with the listener enough to avoid being too rigid or prescriptive. However, being honest, I generally consider most of these “advice” talks to be common sense. I’ll leave it up to the eye of the beholder to determine whether that makes me more or less desirable to present on the topic. ;)