Lead programmer

In the software engineering profession, a lead software engineer 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


A lead software engineer's exact responsibilities vary from company to company, but in general he or she is 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. 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.
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. 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. A lead software engineer normally reports to:
  1. a principal software engineer or chapter lead , or a software architect, on technical matters; and
  2. 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 and team capacity and skillset, e.g. which story tickets from the product backlog will be passed into the next Agile sprint. However, in some smaller organisations, the lead software engineer is referred to as an engineering manager, or a software development manager, and adopts the role of scrum master. In such cases, the lead engineer clarifies objectives and deadlines directly with the product owner;


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