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I work in a startup founded about a year and a half ago by someone that I knew personally (friend of a friend). I like and respect this individual, and started working for the company which was, at the time, under his management.

Everything has been going well, and, based on my reviews, I'm doing well at the company. I feel a sense of loyalty to the founder, who has invested in my education and trusted me. I want to stay at the company.

We recently merged with another company, a small team have joined our team, and though my manager remains a shareholder, has moved away from management, leaving the other company's manager in charge.

We recently met and reviewed the products of the other team, where it seems that two employees have seemingly been given license to build their own products with complete technical autonomy. Without going into specifics, these projects have been running for multiple years.

My concerns are thus:

  • There seems to be a complete lack of supervision and accountability on these projects
  • There is no process of review
  • No unit tests that I have seen
  • No CI/CD
  • Seemingly no project management, certainly not on a daily basis, or from a technical side
  • No version control (no knowledge of git at all)
  • Products have not been developed in an incremental way, and seem in a half-baked state

I also have concerns about the personalities of the two heads of the departments. The egos during our first meeting were staggering, and they either responded emotionally (in a completely unstructured, blabbering way) or aggressively to questions about the projects.

All of this has seemingly been accepted by our new manager, who - to some extent - defended this in a debrief, afterwards.

My question is, as a developer, should I talk to my old manager (who remains a shareholder) and express my concerns?

Specifically:

  • Is this professional?
  • Could there be repercussions for me?
  • Should I accept that he already knows much of this?
  • If I should tell him, should I be active in my approach?
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    Even if this were your team, the first question would need to be "do the projects work?" If they do, then any change needs to be a strategic evolution with full respect to what has been being achieved and how, rather than a set of demands likely break the mechanisms that have gotten things this far. But this is not your team, so onto an already delicate task you have to add the risk of "none of your business" objections - you'll need to be very careful to suggest evolution towards the most practically useful improvements and minimize criticism of the success achieved so far. – Chris Stratton Dec 11 '19 at 16:42
  • i have edited title so it closer matches the question. Initially I thought you were complaining that some developer talks to shareholders – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Dec 11 '19 at 17:55
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Is this professional?

Expressing concern for ongoing projects, if supported by valid reasoning, is always professional.

However it would be seen as very unprofessional to do it through a backchannel.

In clear, you should speak with the shareholder AND the current team you have problems with openly.

Speaking with your shareholder friend would bring a sense of distrust, since you're using a back channel you have from personal friendship. Speaking only with team members who, according to you, are abrasive, would indeed not have much of a point.

If the manager closes his eyes on the issues, invite the shareholder, the manager, AND the project members into a reunion and disclose your issues.

Could there be repercussions for me?

Yes, of course. But it's all about how you present it. If you are genuinely concerned about the well being of the company and the ongoing projects, bring in your technical expertise, and justify your concerns in front of all parties.

There is no need to be judgemental or to bring in arguments either:

"I believe that the lack of CI/CD, the absence of versioning, and the lack of reviews will bring this project down" is a perfectly valid argument. Doing it publicly may bring heat on you and the problematic team, but it will show positively that your goal here is to point out obvious flaws.

If, in this situation, the team truly has attitude or knowledge issues, it will be shown clearly.

Should I accept that he already knows much of this?

I am not sure what you mean exactly. Is he "broadly aware" of one factoid amongst many during a company merger, or is he very clearly aware?

If anything, asking him about his knowledge on the case without mentioning any of your concerns is valid, it's just getting his opinion.

But I would strongly advise against stating your own opinion on the matter between him and you. It can only create clans, and in turn problems.

If i should tell him, should i be active in my approach?

You should be active in bringing the matter at hand to all interested parties, him included. Call reunions, expose problems, and do so with your professional experience doing the talking.

IE, "We usually rely on Git/Jenkins/X and the lack of it will most certainly bring Y and Z problems".

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Express your concerns with your current manager. Leave your old manager out of this. You wouldn't contact your past managers under similar circumstances and you wouldn't go straight to the company's shareholders either, so keep it professional and don't try to skip the important steps to have your concerns addressed.

There are a few reasons for this. The most obvious one is that it's important for you to do your job, your job is not to be an adviser to the shareholders. That doesn't mean you can't give your friends advice in your spare time, but complaining about internal processes is not helpful to a shareholder. It could at a worst case be damaging. At best you're attempting to accomplish something that should be accomplished using different routes.

It's important that improvements and suggestions go through the natural chain of management, otherwise it will be very hard to get management on-board. Your manager(s) would probably not like to be probed from the outside, especially when it's obvious where the internal complaints came from. You could truly ruin your relationship with your managers and even co-corkers, who could easily feel attacked. Maybe management is fully aware of the problem, or maybe they're not. Offer yourself as a valuable resource to solve this problem, after you've explained the problem and offered solutions.

Sure, you can use your influence as a last resort if it comes down to that or you leaving, but in the meantime it's important that you follow the regular order of management. Even if it were to come down to that extreme case, it would be a huge red flag anyway that you'd need to go to such extreme lengths to have your concerns addressed.

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    Current manager will do nothing. He has done nothing in the past at the previous company, why on earth would you expect anything different especially given OP's question description. Politics @QuiteNotSerious is using it perfectly. – paulj Dec 11 '19 at 18:02

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