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I’m a junior developer just a few months into my first full time job. At full strength, our department is at 10 developers, including the lead.

We were down one developer who has yet to be replaced a week after I joined (recruiting is still trying to get a replacement). Three weeks ago, our lead left (he didn’t like management). Another quit a week ago. We are losing another next week and another in two weeks.

One of the survivors is being promoted to lead, which is also transforming away from a direct coding position (the past lead caused a lot of friction by holing up in his office).

Two of the survivors also do exclusively mobile. So while we will be down to 4 out of 10 devs, it’s down to 2/8 in operations. The lead will help out as much as he can, but that’s maybe 2.5.

The other problem is that I will be the only dev left working on a core system for our business.

For context: this is not at a podunk startup. It’s government, so we aren’t going down due to a lack of an investor. The particular projects we work on are also the money making kind, so it wouldn’t be part of a recent budget cut.

I’m thinking of leaving because I don’t want to be in a mess, but it was pointed out to me that I’m now the only dev with much working knowledge of the system and thus it could quickly become my project. Problem is, I am not sure I actually have the skill required to complete it myself. I’ve held my own in sprints, but who knows what else they might want?

The reasons they left aren’t really to do with the department. A mix of reasons. One guy didn’t like management. Another didn’t get the lead position, so is leaving over that. A third got married.

What opportunities and risks exist to staying? Specifically, what are the risks and opportunities of being (at least for two months) the only developer on a project as a junior?

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    It's very difficult someone from outside to assess the internal situation (what actually is going on)...did you try to talk to anyone who is leaving / already left and figure out the reason behind the decision? – Sourav Ghosh Dec 13 '19 at 6:39
  • Added clarification. – EllenAnders Dec 13 '19 at 6:43
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    I recently answered a similar question here: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/148109/… – Helena Dec 13 '19 at 8:21
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    Do you have a sympathetic supervisor or other person with management responsibilities? If so you might ask for advice on how to do your job well with the constant turnover. (Asking for advice rarely offends manager type people.) And: if you need to "hold your own" in sprints, that's fake scrum. Don't let it do too much damage to your self-confidence. And, thanks for working in government: you benefit a lot of people that way. – O. Jones Dec 13 '19 at 15:23
  • When you say "it's government", do you mean that you work directly for a government agency, or are you working at a firm which has a contract to produce things for a government agency? – Upper_Case Dec 13 '19 at 17:15
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Now this has become like a startup environment, In which you work on solving multidisciplinary problems. It would be good opportunity for you to learn. You find the problem and solve it, or if they assign you the project then first map the depth of it and accept it as a challenge. With this approach the experience you will gain is extraordinary withing short amount of time.

Now the question about whether you are ready for that responsibility or not,

1) Now a days you can learn many things from internet (Youtube, Online courses, etc.)

2) There is a huge internet community for your help like stack overflow, if you are stuck in some project.

3) Give your best and even if failure comes you learn from it. that is the best part of learning.

Plus point is that you have working knowledge of system. Also you can master the art of executing projects from root to the branches. Rather than just getting assigned to work on mid branch or small parts of project. In short you will get a project management experience.

Team size is also important as per project requirement, as you said recruitment is going on, your team size will also increase, definitely it will take some time. With this, every new member will also bring some knowledge and expertise to the table which will help you in executing projects with team work which further increases efficiency.

The question of should you also leave your current job, I think No, you should give some time for the system. Maybe in some time management will learn from the current situation of churn and update their policy.

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    I believe the whole "you'll learn something" approach is a corporate conspiracy. It's a way for companies to make you do work on the assumption that you're learning but at the end of the day, by being "loyal to the cause" you'll only help your company. You should always think about what is best for yourself, and "learning" doesn't have any meaning if you're jobless. And big secret... what you learn now usually doesn't apply to the next company. – Dan Dec 13 '19 at 13:48
  • @Dan I think it is a fine balance and one you have to be carefull about. There is the potential to learn and grow but a similar potential to be squeezed empty in the name of "experience" – Borgh Dec 13 '19 at 14:17
  • @Borgh The whole "learning" mantra that's been infused into the developer culture in recent years has me concerned. Everyone is told you're "learning" and even take you to these conferences that seem beneficial on the surface, but the same group of people are always going to these conferences and they always say you should be "learning" but only to help the company and aid future employees. In the end you learned nothing. This is purely benefiting the company. If you can't make money or you have fear of not making money soon, leave. Don't stick around "learning" things for the company. – Dan Dec 13 '19 at 17:38
  • @Borgh As a final thought, I think by spending too much time "learning" it will hurt your career more so than help. You learned an awful lot but you never applied it anywhere. The next employer will ask what you did at your previous company and if all you have are lessons you read online, then that might not be as helpful as having solid projects you worked on. – Dan Dec 13 '19 at 18:47
  • @Dan In a similar vein I would be very concerned if a company told me to "stop asking questions and just do your job". Learning is not just about conferences and formal domain knowledge but can also be trying out other technologies or methods. – Borgh Dec 14 '19 at 16:36
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Pros:

  • You will get lots of hands-on experience
  • You might be able to shape the code the way you want
  • You might get lots of visibility

Cons:

  • It might be very stressful in case you can't handle some stuff in a timely manner
  • Since it is your first job, not having people to learn from is a big con, IMO

I'd make sure that your boss/lead is well aware of your capacities and limitations and that he knows that some stuff might take some time to be completed due to your lack of experience. If he takes that well, that's a good start.

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I can give you an answer based on close experience - not my own personal experience, but that of employing two junior developers who were in your exact position with their previous roles. One of them was already a long-term friend, the other has since become a close friend too.

I can tell you that, in both cases, they found the experience quite damaging to their confidence, though interestingly in both cases it has resulted in them being very hardworking and diligent to fear of inferiority. As a result, it's difficult to say that their experience was without positive value, though I suspect neither would choose to be in that position given the choice.

What you should do depends quite a lot on your own personality. If you are highly self-motivated, love problem solving and are strong enough to stand up to some pressure, it could be a great opportunity to learn a huge amount and quite quickly. As the other answers suggest, you will likely be exposed to a wide range of tasks on a host of systems and technologies and can use this to learn valuable skills to take forward.

The flip side, of course, is that you will be working in an under-resourced team and likely to be under increasing pressure to compensate for the lack of other developers by being highly productive. If you are lucky enough to work in an organisation with flexible deadlines and understanding management, they may give you the time to learn and do the job properly. If not, prepare for unreasonable expectations and figure out how you can deal with them. I would advise against working long hours and basically giving up your life for the job - the lack of resource is their issue, not yours.

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Specifically, what are the risks and opportunities of being (at least for two months) the only developer on a project as a junior?

It sounds like what you're really worried about is if you'll be stuck doing tasks you can't do or you can do the tasks but overburdened. Chances are the management knows the team isn't 100%. They may come to you and ask you what you are capable of but they wouldn't be expecting you to do miracles or take over the entire project. They are looking for other developers to get on board. My guess is they'll be in maintenance mode and tell the shareholders that they are in maintenance mode.

If your company can't find replacement or constantly having high turn over, expect the government contract to lose in the next bid. Chances are the government won't be happy with not delivering products. Most government contracts have option years, so each year they can review if they want to continue the contract to full term. So I would watch that closely especially if the team isn't 100% by then.

Personally I would go talk to your manager. Express that you are eager to learn and want to do work but know that for the next two months you know you'll be the sole developer. Ask what they expect of you. It's a great way to figure out why the others left as well. If your manager says he/she expects you to know everything and expect you to commit to the deadline for big projects, then you know why the others left.

Based on that conversation I would determine if it is wise to stay onboard or leave. At the end of the day, if you're paid, you're good to go. I wouldn't quit based on assumptions until at the very least you talk to your manager.

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