My Breakup

I resigned my last job on May 9, just a few days short of a complete two year stint. For the past few weeks friends and family have wondered why I left the job I raved about for nearly my entire time there. The short answer I have given is that working at the company was no longer fun. For the last six months, instead of waking up excited to work, I had to listen to Happy to get out of the door!

For the last month I have been mostly enjoying “funemployment”; however, the first week was rough! Like a romantic breakup, my professional breakup left me a bit shell-shocked, questioning what went wrong, how and why. I knew that I wasn’t happy, and most likely depressed, since November; but, I still hadn’t found that final bit of closure—an explanation of my unhappiness.

I finally found an explanation during a presentation from Steve DiFillippo. While discussing how he keeps his employees motivated, he mentioned a single word: transparency. Finally, it all clicked!

The reason I like working for startups and small companies is the fact that I get to have a greater impact than if I had joined a larger organization. That impact can only be achieved if there is transparency across the organization; it’s not an individual effort. Perhaps the biggest flaw at the company was separating the engineering and product teams. As I think back, it didn’t make much sense. We wanted to practice agile methodologies for development and collaboration, yet we setup a structure that was based around the waterfall methodology. This lead to a bit of consternation between the two teams. The product team didn’t fully trust the engineering team, and vice-versa.

The situation soured when software consultants were hired in November, but no one on the team knew exactly why. To date I still don’t really know why they were there! I do know that at that point we stopped having a collaborative development process. At that point we were just code monkeys. It’s safe to say that when consultants are unknowingly hired transparency is gone!

The situation improved somewhat after the consultants packed up and left at the end of the year, but the damage was already done. One developer resigned when the consultants were hired. Three more developers left between January and March, cutting the team in half personnel-wise and even deeper experience-wise.

I tried to hold out a bit longer, but I knew it was time to go when a co-worker mentioned she’d known I wasn’t really happy for a few months. Unsure of where the company was headed, lamenting the loss of one of the best software teams I’ve worked on, and quite depressed, I decided it was time to breakup with the company. Ever the workaholic, I actually worked in the office past 1AM the day I informed my manager!

Despite the less-than-happy ending, I mostly enjoyed my tenure at the company. I made great friends with whom I produced some great products. I am also generally optimistic about the company, assuming some operational changes are made to improve the development process.

tl;dr Transparency and open collaboration are valuable to startups and developers. When you lose these traits, you lose developers.