Life as a Tech Lead

The purpose of article series ‘Life as a…’ is to capture and share what it’s really like to be working within the profession and sector. We feature, showcase and share knowledge, expert views and wisdom. Authentic. Insightful.

Here, Jakub Janarek, Tech Lead at Lyst shares their take.

In approx. 30 words and plain English, what do you do?

Jakub: I do whatever needs to be done in order to make users happy and keep the team delivering. This means a bit of everything: system design, code review, coding, people management, and project planning.

What’s your background, what has been your career journey so far leading you to where you are right now?

Jakub: I’ve studied Computer Science in Spain and worked initially as a data engineer there. Then, I moved to London three years ago. I transitioned to software development two years ago as I wanted to build features impacting end-users. A year ago, I grew into the tech lead role at Lyst, as a new team was being created to tackle the problem of integrating retailers with our web and app checkout solution reliably.

Working on the checkout system at Lyst is an interesting engineering challenge, as it’s a non-standard software project with a high degree of complexity, which integrates with retailers’ e-commerce backends, payment systems and third party platforms.

What do you like most about your job?

Jakub: The fact that no two days are the same. It never gets boring, and it rarely gets overwhelming. We have a really positive culture where we’ve got a high degree of autonomy and support in the company, which I really enjoy.

What has been your career highlight so far?

Jakub: Probably building the current team. We’re open, independent and perform really well together. A lot of it can be attributed to the hiring process at Lyst which is really thoughtful, and to frequent feedback we aim to receive and give.

On a practical level, we try to review PRs and unblock quickly other people in the team, have Sprint Retrospectives where we reflect on the ways we work together, and meet in person for lunches or other team activities.

What are 3 key things you consider when choosing an employer?

Jakub: I’d consider culture, pay, and problem space. First, the culture has to vibe with my values, where I value openness, trust, and driving impact the most.

Second, I’d consider pay. Since it’s a job, it has to pay the bills and allow you to enjoy the time off work, and let you recharge properly.

This brings me to the third point, problem space. For me, work has to be something that brings meaning, by solving a real problem many people have. Working on the right thing brings feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment at the end of the day.

Paradoxically, I won’t consider the tech stack much, if at all. Anything can be learnt, and for me it’s mostly about choosing the right tool for the job.

What 3 top tips would you give someone to ensure that their skills and knowledge remain top notch?

Jakub: Stay humble. Don’t assume you know better than other people. This will allow you to learn from others more effectively than when assuming you have the best solution.

Go to conferences, meetups and read technical blogs. Even if it’s just a small amount of time, it’s worth it to keep in touch with the current technical trends. Some concrete examples of resources I found useful this year: the “Designing Data-Intensive Applications” book by Martin Kleppmann, the “Pragmatic Engineer” newsletter by Gergely Orosz, and the “Become an Effective Software Engineering Manager” book by James Stanier.

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