I work in a tiny (~10) company. I am the only developer in this company and have to deal with all the IT related stuff such as servers, SEO etc. Of course, I also program which should be my main task.

Now, my question is, what are the pros and cons of working alone as a developer?

Furthermore, I consider myself a junior since this is my first real job. Will working alone now be a problem in the long run?

  • If you really know your stuff and your job description then it shouldn't really matter. – Stupid_Intern Apr 24 '19 at 13:28
  • Ask for more money. You'll get it. – Fattie Apr 24 '19 at 13:48
  • @Fattie That won't happen right now. I earn really little 'cause it's one of those test period contract – Twothousandandseven Apr 24 '19 at 14:11
  • Hi, welcome to The Workplace. I think this question doesn't belong here as it is highly personal opinion the answer anyone can give to you. Anyway, try to learn as much as you can and leverage your condition of being the only IT guy to ensure you are getting paid what you deserve. – Sebastian Aguerre Apr 24 '19 at 14:16
  • @SebastianAguerre Thank you for you comment. I think that the final decision (working alone or not) is surely subjective, but I asked for objective pros and cons. How do I know the pay I deserve? – Twothousandandseven Apr 24 '19 at 14:20

You already named some cons, having to deal with servers, SEO etc. Some more may be:

  • No other developers for exchanging and helping each other with technical stuff, you are always on your own with technical topics
  • Everything slightly IT related may come to your desk, this may be stuff from a design for letters in MS Word to anything you can imagine
  • It's harder to justify necessary purchases (licenses or even trainings for you) to people that don't really know what it's good for

Pros I can think of:

  • You can make yourself indispensable as it's more or less impossible to replace you without a quite long transition process
  • You are really integrated into the company instead of sitting in your iIToffice without contact to the non-tech part of it. You probably can understand your co-workers needs better.

If you like being some kind of IT janitor with all this different tasks, this is the perfekt niche for you. If you want to evolve as a developer and probably climb the job ladder, you might want to look for something else.

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    It's a good point that you will get stuck with "IT rubbish" unfortunately – Fattie Apr 24 '19 at 13:52
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    A couple of your points are more about being the only IT person, not the only developer. It doesn't necessarily follow that being the only programmer means you're the only tech savvy employee. Regarding your 3rd con, I could also see the opposite happening: it being easier to get what you need from people who can't argue for alternatives. – BSMP Apr 24 '19 at 14:24
  • @BSMP OP mentioned they have to deal with all IT issues. Regarding the purchases, they can't argue for alternatives but for "it worked without this" and that's what will happen from my experience. – supersoft Apr 24 '19 at 14:48
  • OP mentioned they have to deal with all IT issues. Right, but that's still because they're the only IT person at that company, not because they're the only developer. They could hire an IT support person and OP would still be the only developer there. – BSMP Apr 24 '19 at 15:15

I was a sole developer at a company for several years and, while my use of various tools and languages did improve through use, I was making some big mistakes in design; the applications would always work, but I would do things like rolling my own XML parser. This was pre-StackOverflow days, so finding good communities to help make software engineering decisions was not great. Developers need other developers to grow; Stack Overflow, Code Review SE, or the Software Engineering SE site might be able to replace this, but I still don't think it would be as beneficial as an experienced developer being around. If you stay on, make great use of the people in these communities.

That said, being the sole developers can be extremely rewarding. Your contributions can be huge and greatly impact things; this is an awesome feeling because you'll be able to see the value you bring to the company. Your sense of accomplishment should be huge. I was able to conceive, research, and implement my own solutions to things I thought could be better with very little oversight. IT WAS WONDERFUL. You will not get that same latitude at most large companies even if you advance to a more senior position. If you do a good job, you will also be hard to replace which makes your job quite secure.


Con: You have no one to learn from

Pro: You have a job at least

Maybe there are more Cons, but the first one is so huge it's not worth continuing. Basically, it's an acceptable alternative to unemployment, but it will slow or even stop your learning. You won't get good at this profession working in a vacuum, no-one does. I wouldn't recommend this unless it's all you can get. Even as a senior, I still hugely value working with other people and learning from them.

Keep your job for now, but look out for an environment where you have learn from others more senior to you.

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    Hmm, software is hugely self-directed. A sink or swim situation is one of the best ways to learn fast. – Fattie Apr 24 '19 at 13:51
  • As far as learning is concerned he may not be able to learn by others but if company can't afford another developer maybe they will think about investing in the one they have in hopes of getting the job done. Also there are various free sources to learn if OP really wants to learn. – Stupid_Intern Apr 24 '19 at 13:57
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    While it's true that you can get into software effectively without other people, it's incredibly useful to have some peers with whom you can discuss ideas and problems. – supersoft Apr 24 '19 at 14:02
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    People can learn in many different ways, and there's something to be said for being solitary at some points in one's career, but @NathanCooper is correct. It's not good for juniors to be a department of one. Exposure to other ways of working really helps you develop broad and deep skills. Being a "lone wolf" makes you good at dealing with adversity, but it will eventually put your career in a bad light. – teego1967 Apr 24 '19 at 14:06
  • @Fattie take into account that he is a junior. Surely he can learn a lot of stuff by himself, but considering that he has to deal with a huge amount of different stuff with some (probably) tight deadlines, he might learn to do stuff the wrong way. Of course he can also learn wrong stuff from other people, but I believe it is less likely. – undefined Apr 24 '19 at 14:41

I’ve wound up more or less doing that for over 10 years of my career and would recommend riding it out for a bit, but plan on it being short term. An environment like that can lead to a more rounded understanding of what you do and even as a junior, you are that company’s expert and have more freedom than you likely will otherwise. If you were someday considering leadership, broader understanding won’t hurt you there either.

It won’t take terribly long before the focus lost on your core career skills and lack of mentorship slow you down. Google and StackOverflow are nice, but piecemeal learning on individual issues will be no substitute for a team. If you’re holding out for this company to grow, the odds of it ever even hitting 25 people are pretty low so there’s little chance there’ll ever be more than a couple of you. And if it does manage to really take off, you MIGHT bubble up with it or there may just be more layers inserted between you and the top.

Overall…it’s a rounding out experience but unlikely to be a good move for more than a year or so.


Just to expand a bit on the other answers, being the sole developer (as opposed to the jack of all trades of IT, which will ruin your focus) can be an interesting experience for learning, as opposed to simply a stagnation sentence.

Take into account some established teams don't necessarily follow worthwhile practices, so you get to avoid that possibility entirely if you're fresh in the business where you can't go cherry picking those.

Being the sole developer among people who just want things done lets you implement stuff however you want, and with the right mindset this can either benefit or doom you.

This is by all means a double edged sword because:

  • You have freedom to try out new things under your own clearance
  • Consequentially, you also have freedom to do an awful job.

You need to plan to move on eventually:

  • You will reach the stagnation phase at some point. You don't want that.
  • The idea is that the sole developer actually has a team: themselves and "the next guy". Keep your work sensible, not just for you but others.
  • A sole developer that never moved on is simply someone who has blown up a hole on the ship, shaped like themselves. Now they're the cork; and a pricy one.

Another thing worth mentioning is that, as contradictory as it may sound, being in solitude and having to think for yourself for a while may give you desirable traits as a leader and overall problem solver, as portrayed in this speech by William Deresiewicz at the WP Military Academy; here's an excerpt:

[...] Institutions are being guided by people who are good at keeping the routine going, but bad at thinking; specifically, bad at thinking for themselves. The solution, then, seems to be to teach people this trait. However, “thinking” isn’t something that can be taught, it must be done alone.

Ideally, a great sole developer will make themselves replaceable and eventually move on to become a very valuable asset within a team with their experience in decision making.

  • So you are basically telling me to keep working as lone developer but eventually move into a team? Do you think decision making experience and leader trait can also be gained through personal projects? (In which I work alone, of course) – Twothousandandseven Apr 24 '19 at 15:41
  • As mine and other answers have stated, yes it is going to do you good for a limited time to keep going specially if you are a self-learner. It's hard to find equal comparison to the weight of decisions made at work, which impacts not only you, but your employer and the next guy. You'll have more interesting opinions in a team if you have these experiences on you and you'll (ideally) appreciate even more the great value of having colleagues to not only learn from but teach to. – lucasgcb Apr 24 '19 at 15:57

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