17

A year ago I started working as an app developer for a small start-up (backed by the gov.) I was the first employee and was asked to take full responsibility when developing the app, both when it comes to the tech and UX.

The contract that I signed contained no information regarding my areas of responsibility and no job description in general, considering that the company calls itself a start-up and the fact that they asked me to take full responsibility when developing the app I assumed that this was normal and signed the contract. After signing the contract the CEO congratulated me, stating that I was to be their (sole) Lead developer.

Now a year later, we have a successful app on iOS and Android, and we’ve also got a new CEO.

We’re in the process of finding a new app developer. I was told that when we do find one, we will “both work in parallel, on different tasks” and have “equal roles”, I don’t see how that could work, so I asked our CEO for a meeting with me and the old CEO. The old CEO denied that he once called me a Lead developer, and confirmed that the new developer and I will have equal areas of responsibility, at the same time confirming that I have the responsibilities of a Lead / Architect until the new developer has been hired!

I told my current CEO that I have a job offer from a huge company with lots of potential, the company is offering me twice what I’m currently making. Money doesn’t motivate me much, so I want to use this to negotiate a new contract with my current company. The CEO said that he will have to speak to the CTO about it.

It feels unfair and I’m a bit unsure about what to do. I have no problem finding a new job, but at the same time I really like my colleagues and the tasks at my current job. The new CEO says that they (the company) don’t want to have a hierarchy, but at the same time I want to have the technical responsibility for the project I have been working on for the past year.

It’s also worth mentioning that I have worked as a senior dev for over 10 years, so a transition to a lead role is something that I would like.

  • 36
    What is your question exactly? – Xander Jan 10 at 14:25
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    You say money doesn't matter much (I assume you're being paid something you consider reasonable for a "lead" since that's what CEO#1 originally called you.) Also, in my experience, new employees of "equal role" tend to look up to old ones and follow their lead. So, is your objection primarily to the fact that your job title isn't "Lead"? Are you willing to quit over that? – Steve-O Jan 10 at 14:26
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    @Xander the question is what to do in a situation like this. – jjdev80 Jan 10 at 14:28
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    Was the job offer a bluff? – AGirlHasNoName Jan 10 at 14:41
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    Their reaction to your job offer supports Richards answer. – AGirlHasNoName Jan 10 at 14:48
44

Update your resume, you are being replaced.

You're being fed corporate newspeak designed to keep you cowed until they can replace you. You also tipped your hand by mentioning you had an offer on the table. You'd better take it.

The new CEO is planning on taking the company in a new direction, and you're not part of his plan.

All the signs are there:

After signing the contract the CEO congratulated me, stating that I was to be their (sole) Lead developer.

and

The old CEO denied that he once called me a Lead developer, and confirmed that the new developer and I will have equal areas of responsibility, at the same time confirming that I have the responsibilities of a Lead / Architect until the new developer has been hired!

In other words, he said you're the lead, then said he never said that, then said that you're still the lead until you're not.

Like I said, corporate newspeak.

  • Well, that's my immediate thought on this too, the new CEO doesn't have any leadership experience from before and he came in as a PR manager, being promoted to a CEO within the first couple of months of his probation period. – jjdev80 Jan 10 at 14:31
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    Saw something similar with my old boss. The management structure changed and suddenly he was my peer not my boss (I wasn't promoted). Next thing they'd hired two new dev's under someone else. I agree with Richard U that there are a lot of red flags about this. – Dustybin80 Jan 10 at 14:37
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    Agree, do not wait for the last minute, when you will be factually demoted. Right now you are SOLE developer on the project and all of the credit is yours. As soon as you get a "peer", it a group credit for any new position you will seek. Run, don`t walk. – Strader Jan 10 at 15:42
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    @jjdev80 Having a new CEO without any obvious qualifications is another red flag. Follow the advice here. – David Thornley Jan 10 at 17:52
  • @Dustybin80 yep, more red flags than China. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Jan 15 at 13:17
27

I told my current CEO that I have a job offer from a huge company with lots of potential

Take this new job. Telling your boss (or your boss's boss) you have another offer will generally get you laid-off or fired. If they valued your work, they would have brought you on full-time.

I want to use this to negotiate a new contract with my current company

So essentially you are threatening to quit unless they give you what you want. See this from their perspective. You've just gotten a better job so you can strong-arm them into a deal that's in your favor.

What are you going to do when you're not happy again in 6 months? Probably get another job offer and re-re-negotiate the contract.

Realistically, forcing a company to re-negotiate because of offers never works, and generally leads to animosity between the company and the employee.

  • Thanks for your answer. I am working full time and I don't really see why they would not value my work, I have solely developed the app which has many great reviews, etc. This whole situation feels really unfair, I'm just unsure about what to do. – jjdev80 Jan 10 at 15:05
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    @jjdev80 - Be sure that you can demo your app to future employers. Your relationship with the current company is coming to a close. It might be unfair, but they don't value your work. – sevensevens Jan 10 at 15:11
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    @jjdev80 - As my 4th grade teacher said all the time, "life is not fair". You do not need to be fair to them either - figure out how to maximize what you "take" from them (either money to stay for a 6 month transition, a good reference, etc.) – dan.m was user2321368 Jan 10 at 16:16
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    @sevensevens, forcing a company to re-negotiate because of offers sometimes works. It depends on the circumstance. It's not personal, it's business. A buddy of mine went from $118 to $158 + bonus because another buddy of mine offered him a job at a new place. His current place counter offered and that was that. It all depends on how valuable you are to the company in the eyes of the people who decide to give out promotions or not. – Tombo Jan 10 at 18:14
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    @jjdev80 " and I don't really see why they would not value my work," - There's lots of reasons they might not value your work. Not all of them are good reasons, but they're there. Even if they did value it, they might decide it isn't what they need from now on (particularly with a new CEO). – David Thornley Jan 10 at 18:15
21

I'm not entirely convinced that we know you are being replaced.

It's easy to call someone a "lead developer" when they're the only developer and there's nobody else to lead. Inevitably, a successful company will look to grow its engineering team, and it's possible that your company simply doesn't want to use a hierarchy in that team — flat structures aren't unheard of, particularly between just two people who are working on completely different things — or perhaps they would prefer to have a hierarchy in principle, but don't feel that you are ready to be a manager (and also don't want to put you in the position of suddenly reporting to someone else).

None of this is inherently "bad" and I wouldn't necessarily jump to the conclusion that this is a negative thing. Having a new colleague at work could be exciting and you don't inherently lose anything as a result, particularly as you never signed anything that indicates you had something to lose by this and as you will not be working on the same tasks.

Unfortunately, your reaction to this news has been less than endearing. Not only have you balked to the company's CEO about being joined by a new engineering partner, but you've strong-armed him/her with threats about leaving to what you've described as a better deal. If anything, it is this reaction that may have soured your relationship with this company, weakened your position, and may be cause for you to follow up on that threat.

If you ever get the chance to go back in time, I'd stick with it and see how the new teammate works out. It could be a wonderful opportunity to develop software with someone and to learn from each other, and to perhaps transition to a true leadership role as the team continues to grow and sub-ordinates are assigned varyingly to both you and your new partner. You can always leave later if it doesn't work out for you.

4

If you have an offer that pays twice as much, take it. You may not care about money, but once you have wife, children etc. You will kick yourself for not having taking the job and having lots of money in the bank to buy a house, educate the kids etc.

And if someone else is willing to pay twice as much then clearly your current place is ripping you off.

  • 2
    Money isn't everything. I have several times opted against a move that would have made me more money because I know I would have been miserable by comparison to what I was doing at the time. On my last job move I actually took a small pay cut - this is not advisable in general, but made sense in my situation for a few reasons. You have to be fiscally responsible, sure, but money doesn't buy you happiness. (That being said, twice as much is a huge incentive, I agree!) – Lightness Races with Monica Jan 10 at 17:55
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    It's not true that just because somewhere else is willing to pay you twice as much that you're being ripped off. The other place could expect twice as many hours, might offer poorer benefits or might generally be a shitty place to work. None of this has anything to do with your current place of work. – Dancrumb Jan 10 at 18:03
  • I do have a wife and two wonderful kids, as well as plenty of money from my side projects (also apps) – jjdev80 Jan 10 at 21:07
0

I've been in this situation before and part of the personality it takes to create a startup is "bigger, shinier, and newer". If it wasn't they could just work an existing job for much less effort and risk.

This new developer will be seen as superior to you despite the promise of a flat structure. It is likely your accomplishments will be credited to him from his first day of employment.

Unless you have a sufficient equity stake in writing, I would move on to the big company. Note that the promise of an equity stake will very likely not be fulfilled, so anything like that is worthless.

It sucks, is not logical, but it is the way it is. Adding to this is that the old CEO denied calling you the lead developer.

Move on, and make some real money. Be willing to consult with this company if needed, but make your rates very high. For example, if the new company is offering you 50/hour (or the salary equivalent), I would consult with the old company for no less than 200/hr and probably more like 500/hr.

  • 1
    "This new developer will be seen as superior to you despite the promise of a flat structure. It is likely your accomplishments will be credited to him from his first day of employment." That's complete speculation. – Lightness Races with Monica Jan 10 at 17:53
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit The new guy will be hired by the new CEO, for reasons that make sense at the time of hiring. It's speculation, but it's reasonably well-founded speculation. – David Thornley Jan 10 at 21:14
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit It's (line you quoted) perhaps the most accurate thing I've heard, just putting this here in case OP reads: humans, you including, everyone - are vile in the sense of doing whatever they think is best to achieve their goals, it's a talk on its own but whenever your skills as an employee are down-played, even indirectly (as per OP's description), it's time to go, there's nothing left for you there. The moment you start having issues with someone above you, it's over - it might sound grim, but there's no "working it out", you have to look for new places. – coolpasta Jan 15 at 19:57
  • Well I'm certainly glad you're not over-reacting – Lightness Races with Monica Jan 16 at 0:40
0

but at the same time I really like my colleagues and the tasks at my current job.

This is never a good reason to reject a better opportunity ( which you admittedly did ). You need to remember that over time people will come and go and tasks will change. The next time you receive a great offer you should accept it. Your current situation does not look like it will end well despite your currently great colleagues and tasks.

  • 1
    Yep, people don't quit jobs, they quit managers. Not only did the old CEO renege on what he said, he denied saying it, If there's more than one person in a role, one of them is the lead, if it's not him... – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Jan 10 at 18:05
  • @RichardU, that's a truism but not always true. Sometimes the team is bad, sometimes the realm of responsibility is bad, sometimes the business is bad, sometimes somewhere else is better. I wouldn't disagree that bad managers might be the leading cause though. – Tombo Jan 10 at 18:17
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    "money can't buy happiness". In other words, leaving people and work that you like to chase money is a bad idea. – DaveG Jan 10 at 20:27
  • "This is never a good reason to reject a better opportunity" No but it's a reason that it might not be a better opportunity. Money is not everything. – Lightness Races with Monica Jan 13 at 2:58
0

The old CEO denied that he once called me a Lead developer

That is all you need to know. But wait... there's more:

[CEO said] I have the responsibilities of a Lead / Architect until the new developer has been hired

Right.
CEO is willing to call you the Lead/Architect, but only while you're the only one.

This is the important bit: when the new developer arrives you no longer have a title.
Note that they are saying this before they hire the new person - they don't even know who they are hiring, but they do know that you will not have a title when that person starts work.

I don’t see how that could work

Correct, it won't.
More accurately stated: it won't work out well for you.

I told my current CEO that I have a job offer from a huge company with lots of potential, the company is offering me twice what I’m currently making.

Yeah... maybe that will work out well for you.
18 months from now if you think this was the right move, please update the question with that information.

This next quote sounds really good, and maybe it is true - I have no reason to doubt you.

Money doesn’t motivate me much

Okay, but it should - if you want to advance.
Here's why: when you're applying for a new position and the new company finds out that you're making half market rate for the position... it smells wrong to them. Unless you're coming from a non-profit or academia into industry or you are coming from a place where the standard of living is really inexpensive, that new company may (will) get the impression that you didn't deserve the title. They will question your worth because if you were worth more, that other company would have bumped your pay to at least 75% of current market rate (which is 150% of what you're making now).

I'm not saying money should be your primary motivation... that path can (does) lead to misery.
But it should be a motivation.

It feels unfair and I’m a bit unsure about what to do. I have no problem finding a new job

I agree. It is unfair to you.

You need a new job, the sooner the better.

0

Whenever management presents a change that appears to affect your responsibilities (either formally or informally), it is important for you to ask them to clarify exactly why they are making this change, and what your responsibilities will be after this change. This should include a formal description of what you are responsible for, who you report to, your title, etc.

This is also a great time for you to make a case for yourself - to remind them of your value, to argue to you keep the work you like and try to move some of the work you don't onto others. Think of it is another negotiation: they want something from you (to accept this change) so you should try to extract something from them in return.

Sometimes, the change might be because they have decided to replace you, but want a period of overlap. By asking them to clarify you role, and seeing how amenable they are to some of your requests, you can try to suss that out.

Companies make changes all the time: because they are growing and need new people, because they need people with more and different experiences, etc. Most people which make great "first" developers at a start up do not have the skills or experience to lead a team of a 1000 technologists, and so as the firm grows, especially if it grows rapidly, they need to find a nice niche for themselves.

  • "This should include a formal description of what you are responsible for, who you report to, your title, etc." That's fine in old established companies but in start ups it's very unlikely they will provide formality like that... – Alan Dev Jan 10 at 18:01
  • @AlanDev - I've worked at many startups and I always knew my title and whom I reported to. – dan.m was user2321368 Jan 10 at 18:27

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