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I've been working as Director of Software and Chief Software Architect for 2 years with a team of talented developers building a rather complicated piece of code from scratch. We now have 13,000 lines of operational code, under Continuous Integration control with Unit tests, Doxygen, the works.. And I'm proud of it.

Recently, the company has hired some rather high-profile people that are wanting to scrap everything and rebuild it themselves from scratch. I've argued against it (Their complaints of poor quality are unfounded, and I don't believe our product road-map can take the hit of a rebuild). To me, it seems a blatant "Not Invented Here" problem. So now I'm being asked to take a position as an entry level Software Engineer in another team that's doing what management referred to as "Creative and Fun" work.

How does one deal with this? I don't want to quit, but it seems my options are limited. How bad does it look on a resume to see "Director of SW" -> "Software Engineer" within the same company.

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I'm not sure what you're asking here. It looks like the company is giving you a choice of quitting or being demoted. We can't help you make life choices. What sort of advice are you looking for? –  MrFox Jan 16 at 17:45
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@JeffDoe Those are two questions not really related and while this is the right audience for the latter, the former is more of a programming question, than of navigating the workplace. May I suggest you edit your question to clearly ask the implications of taking that position and take the 'Not Invented Here' issue over to Programmers, for example? –  CMW Jan 16 at 17:53
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In some locations, being induced to resign by such a radical demotion would amount to unlawful constructive dismissal. It would be wise to check out what your rights are. –  Julia Hayward Jan 17 at 10:13
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In the midst of the discussions about what to do, you need to read up on something very important: CONSTRUCTUIVE DISMISSAL. This is when your work conditions have been changed so drastically that it's essentially a different job, and it means that if you resign as a result of this, the law will consider that you have been fired: i.e. the company will owe you the same severance and other payments as if they had fired you without cause. You will be eligible for any unemployment benefits as if you had been fired without cause. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructive_dismissal –  DJClayworth Jan 17 at 15:29
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Director of Software/Chief Software Architect to Software Engineer seems like a massive fall down the ladder for anyone to take. –  crmpicco Jan 21 at 14:20

7 Answers 7

Find Power

To be in a position of power you must have options. "They" (your employer) have options, namely firing you, doubling your pay, demoting you, "constructive dismissal" (making you want to leave so they don't have to fire you), requiring your resignation, promoting you, or leaving you alone...and surely many more.

What options do you have?

I have a rule: Good decisions tend to be made from a position of power, while bad decisions tend to be made from a position of weakness. You have a potentially excellent CV right now, a prestigious title of Director, a history of progressive responsibility and managerial experience, great contacts, probably great reference potential from peers, subordinates, and hopefully at least certain supervisors, very current technology/stack experience...

You've got options. Get yourself into that mental space, instead of a reactive submissive one, and if nothing else you'll feel a lot better about what happens. Its ok if you don't feel that way - fake it.

Tap the Network

Time to call up your old friends, acquaintances, people you've done lunch with in the past, people you've met at conferences and get together, etc, and set up some meetings with recruiters and head hunters (at your level many, many positions never reach advertisements - as with all jobs, only more severely so).

Yeah, you are looking for the next potential career step. Right now. You have nothing to lose now, you are changing jobs anyway!

Get Things Straight

Once you've at least got yourself to faking confidence come what may, and you have feelers out to gauge interest in your next great thing you'll be doing, you can - if you want - set up a proper meeting with your current employers. Or just show up in their office, if your culture so inclines you - generally the better way to get real information anyway.

Then ask direct, clear, professional questions. Throw aside the emotions (again, fake it), and make sure what you think is reality is in fact reality. At least get some confirmation, if you don't already have it for certain, that you are in fact being asked to step down from a Director position to take a junior position.

In your personal case, you may already have what you need to go on. But the "grapevine" can send along some ridiculous info, especially from people who are in fact being pushed out for good reasons or purely political ones. Those facts may or may not apply to you.

Write Two Resignation Letters, Right Now

I say two, because if you are anything like me then you'll want to tell them to shove it and how they are making a huge mistake. Go ahead and right that letter at home - that one is just for you. You might want to print it out, file it, delete the file, empty the recycle bin, then if it makes you feel better set the paper on fire (in accordance with good sense and fire codes, naturally).

When you are done, write the simple one that says thank you and wishes them the best of luck on their future endeavors, but you are resigning from your position with the company.

In the end, remember that in a few months time this will be behind you and it'll all be over with it, so you'll just be a bit on edge for a bit. But then you'll be fine, regardless. This happens all the time, and everyone in a position of hiring authority understands that sometimes new de facto bosses push people out for purely political reasons.

Should You Take The Junior Position?

After making sure you really are being moved from a position of high authority to a junior member elsewhere, that decision would be up to you. You must evaluate it as a brand new job - would you be applying for such a job, even the reason for your being ousted from your current job aside?

If not, then I would strongly suggest a "thanks for the offer - but no thanks" approach.

Personally, I'd never actively advise someone take such a position, especially after 2 years in your current position. Right now you have a great story of what you've been working on - if you take the position your story changes to what you are currently doing as a junior, or how that great project you worked on was thought of so highly that they threw it out completely and moved you to a different team.

If you cut your history at the top, you leave with pride in a job well done even if management screws up after you left.

On The Bright Side...

After two years as director with a modern technology stack and a team under you, you are surely worth more and have more negotiating power now than you were when you got your present job. Lots of great stories of hard problems and how you tackled them, and the lessons your team learned in creating a real, complex software product, are fresh in your mind. Great interview material!

I would put your experiences up till before the project went on the chopping block in one box, the managerial/political mess in another box, and keep it that way. Don't let an unpleasant latter experience screw up your earlier, good experience. Be fair to yourself, and good luck on your adventures!

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This is a tremendous answer. +1 for "if you are anything like me then you'll want to tell them to shove it and how they are making a huge mistake. Go ahead and right that letter at home - that one is just for you. You might want to print it out, file it, delete the file, empty the recycle bin, then if it makes you feel better set the paper on fire (in accordance with good sense and fire codes, naturally)." Writing that second letter and not using the first is so important. –  jmac Jan 17 at 8:11
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You are answering questions not asked and not on topic for this SE. This does not answer the actual questions asked. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jan 17 at 16:21
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@Chad "how does one deal with this?". The answer is spot on. –  Gusdor Jan 17 at 17:26
    
@Gusdor - You are forgetting about the other qualifier that he does not want to quit and wants to know how this will impact him in the future... –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jan 17 at 18:49
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Because the question did not ask what 2+2 was it asked how to avoid adding in the first place. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jan 17 at 20:07

It looks very bad. You had a senior management title (Director) and were demoted to grunt. It shows your company did not respect you and was willing to shove you aside while doing it. If you accept the position it will appear to many that you do not respect yourself or your abilities either.

As someone reviewing resumes its a red flag. Why would someone who was a director and architect be demoted back to just being junior programmer? Was it that you were very difficult to work with and for? Do you have some very bad work habits? Are you not good at your job? These red flags go off right as I toss your resume in the recycle bin. You never make it to the interview process because the just out of college kid is a safer bet.

I say all of this believing that you are getting the short end of the stick here. It looks even worse if you get let go from that entry level job, which if what you are saying is true, I would expect will happen in the next 3-6 months after they find little things to write you up for.

I would offer to leave the company if they will sign over the rights to the product you created, especially since they are going to throw it out anyway.

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This answer may sound harsh or critical of the OP. That is not my intent. I am simply attempting to demonstrate how it will be perceived. Having been in a similar position after a buy out I can feel for the OP. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jan 16 at 22:22
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Why would the company sign over the rights to the product? for free? –  Luke Jan 16 at 22:40
    
@Luke - It is basically a severance package that will cost the company nothing. It gets the OP out of the company which is quite obviously their intent. I doubt they will accept the offer anyway. Its a negotiation tactic. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jan 16 at 22:45
    
"after they find little things to write you up for" Is this a real thing? Why wouldn't they just let him go if it's 'at will' employment. Almsot every software developer has to sign an 'at will' document when they start. –  aglassman Jan 16 at 22:45
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@aglassman - Because firing someone can be expensive unless they have cause. There are protections for people from this sort of thing. But the protections are in the "Poison Pill" variety where they will have to pay the government quite a bit in fees, and unemployment compensation. Even though the OP is capped at 400-600 a week in unemployment the government could collect quite a bit more than that from the employer for a much longer time. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jan 16 at 22:49

I would say this situation is very well suited to quitting gracefully.

Quitting at a random time, with no warning, is a little unprofessional (but still your prerogative.)

However, simply being asked to move to a different position, be it up, down, or laterally, is a great opportunity to quit in a professional manner. Simply decline the new position, for personal reasons (It is a great position, but not the right one for me at this time.)

You are therefore able to exit the company from the senior position where you were.

If you accept the position, then you will never be able to honestly say you left the company from the senior position. Moreover, it may be a while before you have another opportunity to quit that is as good as this one.

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Exactly. Take advantage of your current position to leave on top and look for similar positions. –  Adam V Jan 16 at 22:37

You've got to start looking for a job yesterday. Seriously, it's time to bail. I could understand a lateral movement or a change from Architect to something like Senior Software Engineer in charge of X, Y &Z but to be reassigned to Entry Level is career suicide.

Every job on your resume needs to build upon the one prior.

If you have vacation/personal time perhaps you can use this to get you through the transition. But if it were me I would not take that kind of demotion

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In general it looks bad to go from director to developer in the same company. If you were going from Billy Bob's Software House to Amazon or Google then you would consider the role as a whole rather than just the title.

If the company valued you and this was purely about politics, then they could have approached this by creating a role above you, CTO, possibly renaming your role to Head of Development or just keeping it as Chief Architect. Plenty of companies have CTO's who are more business focused and CA's who do the real thinking.

Frankly, it sounds as if the company doesn't value you. So a hard question - are you good at your job, or do you just think you are? How do your skills really stack up. You're in software, there's more demand than supply, so if you are as good as your question indicates then dump this firm and move on.

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I think the question is how "entry level" is the new position and whether it interests you. I have 18 years of programming experience and have led 4 software developers teams and I continued to software developer positions 3 times:

  1. The project closed and I was told that if I'd join a different team (and project), I would end up leading it because the team leader was expected to continue to a different team (so they needed a replacement)
  2. I was unhappy in a project I was working at, I chose to move a senior developer position in a different project
  3. They company closed and I accepted a job offer as a developer (though I was also looking for TL positions)

However, I always have influential positions within the teams I join, I don't know what entry level means for you, but I always look for a position which would allow me to contribute my skills and my experience and this is what I say in interviews. I don't think this makes my CV look bad, because I am very clear about what I'm looking for. This is also a test on how much you believe in yourself to contribute just as much, as a developer because if you're going to end up doing entry level tasks it will hurt you.

I do wonder why they're moving you aside. Perhaps you're presenting your opinions in a way which makes them doubt you can follow up with the decision made.

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Well, IMO... The main reason is that this vocal high-profile person that they want to replace me with is close friends with our VC.. And I think they're afraid of what will happen if they don't appease him. –  JeffDoe Jan 16 at 18:07
    
Why don't you just ask about it? –  Sigal Shaharabani Jan 16 at 18:16
    
@JeffDoe if that's the reason, then that explains a lot and I think your best course of action is to jump ship and find a job elsewhere without the distinction of your former job title being tarnished by a 'horizontal promotion' to an entry-level position. –  alex.forencich Jan 20 at 3:01

Try to think about this from a practical angle: Do you need this job to support you and your family?

If you do, the answer is obvious. You can accept the new position and at least make a living. Keep in mind no one can take away your experience. So you can rebuild your career within the same company or look for other opportunities.

If not, it's totally up to you. If you really care about the title, leave. However, make sure you can find next opportunity in time so you don't have to explain the gap on your resume. If you like the company culture or anything about the current company, stay. Again no one can take away your experience so you can rebuild your career. Also if you decide to stay, try to negotiate the salary to match or at lease close to your current pay.

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This is really bad career advice. –  Andy Jan 20 at 2:09
    
This might not be the best answer, but it's what I did and what I believed. It is especially true if you have family. –  grignard Jan 22 at 20:20

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