Andrew Pallant

Software & Web Developer

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When a Developer Leaves

Physical Link: When a Developer Leaves

To start; I am not saying this is me, but I did talk to a few developers for research.

Employers are often left scratching their heads when a developer leaves. The unfortunately truth is when one leaves another often follows not to long after. It is very hard to understand why the first developer left let alone the second or third. I believe as a employer, team lead or VP, you should know some of the “WHY” for a better understanding of a developer’s behavior. I admit we are a strange brew of employees.

Developers like to be challenged and appreciated. When the challenge is gone, so is the developers will to continue. Developers need to know that they will not be doing the same thing day in and day out. They really need to mix things up a bit. They need responsibilities, new tasks and freedom to try new things on their own. They also need to know they have the company’s support to continue education, and not just a pat on the back. Try to hire from within the team before you look for that new manager. Sometimes you have the perfect leader within the company already.

Developers also have a keen sense of appreciation. They do not need a thank you, or a pat on the back from their employer all the time, but they definitely know when they are being exploited and taken advantage of. More and more companies are introducing foosball, video games and fun activities to show their developers that they can have fun and are appreciated. It is the little things that go a long way. A BBQ in the summer with some good laughs and keep the spirits a little brighter.

These are just brief explanations of why a developer may leave a company, but very rarely is it just for more money. There is often more to it. An exiting interview may shed more light on the “WHY”, but more likely you will never know. An observation that I have made recently; there is a real misunderstanding of junior developers. Junior developers are ones that leave their company the most. Junior developers leave because they are treated poorly by senior staff, paid unfair salaries, no or little vacations and benefits and simply they often do not feel apart of the team. Junior developers add value to any team for a couple reasons.

  • Successorship for senior developers
  • Brings new ideas and techniques to the table
  • They still absorb new information at a fast rate

Why would other developers leave shortly after?
Loyalty is often a factor. Developers are social creatures who form a tight community that is often hard to break into. They often congregate at bars and coffee shops after hours or on breaks to share and implement ideas. This form of interactions creates a tight bond. If a company hires one developer, it is not uncommon for that developer to want to take a few of his trusted colleagues with him. This is a practice that shows the tight bond and trust between the development community. Developers like to work with people they know and trust. It is also becoming a more common practice for the new employer to try to take an entire team of developers that are linked by a common employer or group. This helps create a stronger team.

What Not to Say to a Developer
I was once told that I would never be able to advance out of my position because I was too good at it. These words are like knives going into the heart. A developer likes to be challenged and advance through their career like anyone else in the workforce. Developers are often known to put their heart and sole into their work; often giving 110% of themselves. Advancement is often equal to being similar to being appreciated and/or trusted. Nothing kills a employee’s will to continue faster than words. Chose your words wisely.

Strange Creatures
Developers are strange creatures. They are creatures of habits ( generalization ) and often do not like change. Exception here is developers often embrace changes as in new technology and ideas. When I say they do not like change, they do not like to

move homes, place of work, parking spots, watering holes, etc. They like their every day habits and routines. When a developer leaves it is often a big decision and they did not take it lightly. It is often not a personal reflection on the company, but rather a personal reflection of themselves.

Quick Points

  1. Find out what other companies are doing to keep their developers engaged and happy
  2. Talk to your developers often on a personal level
  3. Create a trust with your developers. Do not give them a reason to not trust you.( Example: monitoring internet usage and emails )
  4. Give them freedom. Allow them to occasionally work on projects of interest ( Google often does this and then makes money from the side projects )
  5. Let them use social media to keep connected and build the communities. You do not want your developer to feel isolated. Non-techie people often do not understand a developer
  6. Do your hardest to create real expectations, and not push crazy hours. Developer burnout is rampant in small companies
  7. Do your best not to call your developer all hours of the night and every day when they are on vacation. You would not want this for yourself.
  8. Treat your developer as you would want to be treated

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