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Conversation With A Software Manager… All My Good People Leave

All My Good People Leave

I had what started as an intense conversation with a Software Manager this morning and I am writing this quick so I don’t forget some of the things we spoke about.

Short version is that “Software Manager” is disappointed that the average length of time on their team right now is 3 years 7 months. And I was thinking… that sounds OK to me.

So we dug into a few of the scenarios they have experienced and I gave my thoughts about them. Note… I know a lot of managers who would like these problems.

Scenario #1

“Senior Developer” had been with the company for 7 years. They started as a mid level developer and moved quickly into a senior role. They also started doing some speaking at local and regional events doing tech talks and as an unofficial evangelist for the company. They left because their career path was not going to change much and they were motivated to one day get into senior leadership. They did an active job search, a brilliant one at that, and landed a remote job with a huge group in the Bay Area.

  • A bummer sure but this is also a success story. That someone did a lot of growing and loved talking about the company is a cool thing. My response… who’s next?

Scenario #2

“Junior Developer” who was frustrated a bit lot by not having a mentor took a new job. Before leaving they wrote up some ideas on how the company could better onboard and train up junior developers. Before leaving they gave 2 referrals for open roles in the company.

  • Another bummer but a learned lesson on building a team. And that “Junior Developer” still liked the company enough to suggest team members, that’s a win.

Scenario #3

“Senior Developer” had been with the company for 3 years and left to become an entrepreneur. “Senior Developer” had been working on something, not competitive to the company, and found a couple of people to work on it with them. The company has a generous PTO policy and there is work/life balance so the work was done on nights and weekends. They had a few beta clients and received a small amount of funding. They gave an 8 week notice. 8 weeks!!! And they sat in on the interview process and had a successful replacement with time to transition over.

  • I think this a win. You can talk about that in future interviews that work/life balance and PTO allowed someone to go out on their own.

There were 4 more we spoke about and all of them, to me, were like the ones above. Bummer, sure but not horrible and it got me thinking…

- The company and CEO rating on Glassdoor is high

- “Software Manager” received 4 very positive LinkedIn recommendations from those who left

- None of the exits were dramatic

- 3 years and 7 months… is a good number

I also told “Software Manager” that no one, including the CEO, was going to retire from there and that this is part of the evolution of companies.

A few thoughts I had:

- Use these stories when recruiting and interviewing. They will help get some amazing people.

- Do not stop recruiting. Ever. Sure there are times are when new members are not being added to a team but we should always be talking with people. Always.

- The saying, “People don’t leave companies, they leave managers” is not entirely true. Generally, yes but not always. Sometimes life, circumstances and opportunities come up and people make changes. I told “Software Manager” that these resignations were not on them.

- And… “turnover” like the kind they went through can be a good thing. New ideas, perspectives and energy can help teams grow, evolve and flourish.

What started as a feeling of frustration turned into a realization that the culture “Software Manager”and the company have put together is a good one… they just need to better plan for it.

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