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I am a recent graduate in my first job after university and have been at my current company for 3 months as a software engineer.

On Friday, it was abruptly announced that my boss (the guy who hired me) had resigned and would be leaving in two weeks. His new job is just a few blocks away, so it is not as though he is moving or retiring.

What alarms me about this is that my boss came up in my company. He wasn't a typical 2-3 year tenure hire or a non-technical product manager, but someone who seemingly had commits on every file in our codebase. You could tell him a filename and he knew where your error might be. He was the engineer who got to manage the product as he built the product.

He is not the only software developer to leave recently. I went back through the list of names on the commits and virtually everyone is new to the company. He was the last person who wrote the core codebase to still be there (that was in 2017 for our product).

In addition, two other developers (on a team of about 10-12 depending who you count) have left in the past 7 weeks. One guy arrived one week before I did, so inevitably he replaced someone as well.

I was having lunch with another developer and he was openly telling me about juicy jobs at a competitor which were open on Glassdoor and Indeed (so it is not as though he just stumbled upon them on LinkedIn). A third is ready to quit if he can find a job closer to his wife (who works in small town three hours away).

Is this level of turnover normal in software development? Or should I be taking this as a bad sign?

In addition, the job posting for my boss's replacement is entirely aimed at being for a non-technical person with a business degree. If that is the case, there will be no engineering leadership on the team. It will just be a bunch of devs below a manager.

My current boss has served as a technical mentor, so I am worried about losing any meaningful guidance in growing as a software engineer, especially if the rest of the team evaporates.

Should I be concerned and if so, what should I be doing?

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Quick answer is keep calm and carry on. It's your first job, so only these things count:

  1. Is it ok for your physical & mental health?
  2. Are you learning valuable skills?
  3. Are you earning ok?

Other things, like how the company is doing, whether it's going to survive long-term etc. is not your problem. You will most likely move to a new job in 2-3 years, perhaps max. 5 years anyways.

Another thing is, you don't need to move preemptively. You have plenty of time, and it's better to cross the 2 year tenure line for future job prospects. So don't make a move because you anticipate something might happen. Wait and see, if it happens you still have plenty of time to move.

All the things you have written are not obvious red flags. Turnover of 30% is pretty standard in tech, and there is a lot of variance due to chance. Also during a change it's normal that there is increased turn-over (a senior person like CTO, VP of Engineering leaving can ofter trigger this). This is however normal and often healthy for a company. Sometimes a company grows and needs a different approach, different knowledge etc.

So don't fret - look at the list above, and if any of them are not met, that's when you should start your move. And finally, even if you are not looking to move, interview from time to time - at least once per year. It allows you to know your current market value, and keep your interview skills sharp (you don't have to take the offers).

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Should I be concerned and if so, what should I be doing?

It is normal for an exodus to start sometimes. And devs are especially prone to moving on due to the nature of their work and temperaments.

In your case you basically just got there and you're as junior as it gets. Stay and ride it out, there's plenty of room for advancement and you can analyse whats best for you. None of it's your fault and unless there are problems with your pay or workload becomes untenable it's not an actual problem.

Similar situation saw me moving from Junior to Senior engineer with more than twice the pay in a year of solid work when I first entered IT. Another similar exodus in my forestry days led to me taking over a 12,000 dollar contract for a weeks work. Best payday I'd ever had in my early life (spent most of it on booze, chicks and rock&roll, the rest I wasted).

  • 3
    +1 for 'The rest I wasted' – Lior Bilia Nov 10 at 14:15
  • Now you need to do EVERYTHING. it's time to learn !!! A LOT. – Green Baloon Nov 11 at 18:39
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What can you find out about the history of the company? Was it recently purchased by another company?

If you company was purchased by a competitor, they may be preparing to shut it down. They have raided it for whatever talent and assets they could get and will soon move its product into the end-of-life phase. This would mean that your former boss declined to move to the purchasing company.

Another possibility is that, purchased or no, your company is moving the product into the revenue-extraction (aka capital-depletion) phase. This would mean that the product has been deemed no longer extendable, and not worth enhancing with more features. The company will exit the market, or more likely begin developing a replacement product with brand new technology.

It's also possible that your former boss and the company management just came to have irreconcilable differences about the direction in which the product should be grown. This would mean that the exodus was triggered by the knowledge among the developers that the master developer would soon be leaving. Some agreed with their mentor, and went; some agreed with management, and stayed. In that case you're probably OK. At least management isn't deliberately ending the product development.

You have learned all you can from examining the product you work on and from looking at your department. You now need to look around at what else the company is doing.

Ask your fellow developers if one of these guesses is true. It's acceptable to express this kind of curiosity. Take your former boss to lunch and pump him for info on the future roadmap of the company he just left.

  • No acquisition and we are in the middle of some major projects involving customization of the software, including our largest ever. They keep putting out postings for devs. Shall try to extract more info from other devs next week. – BossJustQuit Nov 10 at 5:43
  • The implication here is that the company could stop paying everyone in a year or so, so make sure your finances are in good shape. OTOH, with all these new people, there should be some great opportunities, so don't leave until you see what happens. – Robin Bennett Nov 11 at 11:27

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