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I just completed an interview for a team lead developer role. One question that I wasn't prepared to answer was "How much time will you allot with coding".

At that time, I said 60% because I would still like to get my hands dirty and learn new technologies, then spend the rest of the time managing the team.

Is this the correct answer for a person aspiring to be a team leader? What should be the correct response for this question? Is it better for the team lead to let go of all his coding tasks?

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    Was this interview for an internal or external role? – Philip Kendall Feb 26 '19 at 7:04
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My (ultimate) answer would be "I expect you to tell me that, at least at first, until I have experience enough to decide for myself".

Or, are they planning to throw you in at the deep end, without any help?

I imagine that it is as @Bernhard said in a comment above

there is no one good answer. This is a question to show that you understand the role. The reasoning matters, not the number.

So, I would show them my thought process, as I do for just about all interview questions, then throw it back at them - "... that's what I think and why I think it, but what's the reality here?".

After all, you are interviewing them too, and deserve a number to help you to decide whether to accept an offer.


[Edit] why are they so concerned about coding? It's the shortest part of the development process. Perhaps they mean time spent with your team, and don't consider upfront requirements analysis, & architecture definition to fall into that category?

But I am concerned that they don't ask how much you will participate in reviewing - don't they do any?

And while the ratio of testing to coding may vary, I would expect it always to be more time for testing. I see it as a red flag that they don't ask about testing.

It sound like they had a rather one dimensional view of the development process, and see it all as "the coding". Worth thinking about.

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    At big companies in particular, leads frequently don't have time to do any coding to speak of, let alone a sizable percentage. Where they run into problems is hiring leads that still insist on being coders. What invariably happens is they suck at both jobs. Not enough time to complete their code properly, not enough time spent managing the details of the team. This is generally the time when the person has to decide between the management or technical career path. – Dunk Feb 27 '19 at 0:10
  • I totally agree, and have seen it often (+1). Props to those companies where you can retreat from that promotion back to development with no stigma attached. – Mawg says reinstate Monica Feb 27 '19 at 7:33
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It hugely depends on the business. In a highly regulated business like automotive, coding is 20% or less of the total work.

In a web-development project using Agile, coding may be as high as 80%, especially during the initial part of the project.

It also depends on the role and on the exact activities. If you need to do a lot of hiring as a team lead, you may not have the physical time to code at all - maybe you will have the time to attend some reviews.

So the question is not good from the start - not in the sense that there is one good answer to rule them all.

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    I think it's a great question, just because there is no one good answer. This is a question to show that you understand the role. The reasoning matters, not the number. – Bernhard Feb 26 '19 at 6:08
  • @virolino thanks for the answer. Since the answer actually depends on the industry, I think this should be answered by "Depends on the number of coding hours required from me". – niccolo m. Feb 26 '19 at 6:11
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    It depends on what the interviewer wants out of the question. If they're looking for someone who matches their range, they'll miss out on a lot of good candidates. But if they're trying to weed out candidates with unreasonable expectations - I sat in on an interview with a guy who answered, "Most programmers do around 90%, but I'm pretty sure I could do 95%". Cira 2000, fresh out of school, did not know Scrum, RAD, UP, XP, or DSDM. – Ed Grimm Feb 26 '19 at 6:13
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    @niccolom. That's not what it depends on. It depends on the amount of overhead work in the job. Programmers who need to have documented designs approved before they can start writing code may spend a lot more of their time on design than coding, for example. The number of coding hours required may just be how many years it'll take to get through your initial task list... – Ed Grimm Feb 26 '19 at 6:16
  • thank you Ed. It seems that it actually depends on the job. further research on the company would be needed then. – niccolo m. Feb 26 '19 at 6:52

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