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Background:
I left a small company after completing a few big projects. The people with know-how were already merely a few, and none really had sufficient knowledge of my domain. Even those people are now gone.

After the losses, they hired a few jr engineers, but with all the key people gone, they're having a difficult time. I had told them before leaving, they could reach out and I'd like to help. I really would like to help them, and have been in contact with them for months.

I had prepared exhaustive documents, videos, tips & tricks, etc. I personally conducted and oversaw all functionality tests and validated that performance and other metrics were satisfactory. I tried my best to simplify advanced concepts in a beginner-friendly way.

Also, I had repeatedly asked my boss at the time to hire someone that could learn from me, even before I was planning on leaving.

I have no incentive to keep this relationship other than the fact that I truly would like them to take over the knowledge and hopefully do even better things in the future. That is to say, I expect nothing in return neither now nor in the future, except hoping for their success.

The problem:
It has been extremely difficult to help them, and not for the lack of trying. The new people don't really seem to take my advice, even though they ask for it. I receive no feedback on whether the method worked or not, or if they saw a new problem, nothing comes back to me.

These things they're working on are not easy, the projects are rather complex. I do not expect them to be able to effortlessly become experts, nor do I expect them to work with me as if I were their boss. However, I donate my time and expertise and I at least would like them to follow through with something they asked me about.

I think no one even bothered to go through the resources I left behind. That was evident from their first questions. Regardless, I answered them. I kept advising a methodical approach to test things when they make changes. I am not arguing that I am good at giving directions, but I tried my best to make it understandable and left the door wide open for questions.

Today, I realized a problem that they were having for a long time was happening because of the first thing that I told them to check. I insisted that they should clarify this, and explained to them the methodology, what to expect, etc. They "had checked" and "verified" and nothing was wrong with it and they spent so much time on things that are completely irrelevant. I was frustrated to hear this. In fact, it prompted me to write down this post.

I guess the question is, how do I manage this relationship going forward? I cannot give someone who doesn't want to take it. Then again, I do not want to see all the effort that was put into making something meaningful to be left abandoned. So I still wish them to succeed but now I feel frustrated about things that I shouldn't be.

I hope the question is on topic, I am looking for your experience on how to navigate this situation, or not to navigate at all and pull the plug.

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    You're doing all this frustrating work for free? Seriously? You've got to let go. Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 11:10
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    I can't catch from the question whether they're calling you for help and you struggle to answer or you're reaching out to them spontaneously and they don't take your advice correctly. Wouldn't the question be improved if that was clearly said ? Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 17:29
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    @StephanBranczyk until writin all this down, I hadn't really realized how much I had already given... You're right, I made up my mind.
    – Guarneer
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 17:46
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    Was this your first professional job? Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 19:44
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    @Polygorial thank you for raising a very important point. In fact, this alone would be enough to decide on stopping right away. Luckily, what has happened so far doesn't put me in a bad spot, but I will not be continuing my support to them.
    – Guarneer
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 14:59

5 Answers 5

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You left the company already. They do not want your help. Take a deep breath and relax. Continue with your life and let them to continue with theirs. You do not have to save anybody, especially when they do not want to be saved.

I am aware that people tend to get attached to anything, including their work products. I did it too. Every time I left a job I felt somehow guilty. But in the end, I did my job, and they did their job. Now we go on different paths.


I left a small company

and

how do I manage this relationship going forward?

What relationship? The relationship was called employment and it was finished. It is actually working against you to beg them to accept your help. It even kind of looks unprofessional - it kind of suggests that they are not able to continue without your help.

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    You were fair also, you did your best to help the project going on. Also, the business is not yours, you were never responsible to keep that business alive, or the profits flowing. I totally feel your attachment to a good product, but you just need to accept the death of the previous job in the same way you need to accept the death of a loved one.
    – virolino
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 10:52
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    AFTER the job ended, you have to make the strongest efforts to finish the professional relationships. Deliver everything you have to show your support and good will, and then finish. You need to concentrate on your new life and (sooner or later) on your new job. NOTE: it is OK to keep being friendly to your ex-boss and former colleagues, even go to have some beer or marry each other, if desired. But no more business.
    – virolino
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 10:54
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    It is not your problem, it is your ex-company problem. Let them deal with it. You are doing more than enough by offering help after your employment ended.
    – Bene
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 10:58
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    @Guarneer Perhaps you are thinking it's the new developers' problem. It is not that either. It is the problem of the managers at the company. If they did not manage effectively, you don't have to bail them out. Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 21:42
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    "it kind of suggests that they are not able to continue without your help" - Well I mean they aren't... They're asking for help while missing important information on topics that have already been questioned. Tell the company to pay you for your time. I'd get the authority to command them with power. Even temporarily. Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 7:15
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Something that hasn't ben mentioned is the most obvious way to deal with this:

Quote them your contracting hourly rate

Now, you've left the company on good terms, you've provided a sufficient hand-over process, you've documented the things you need to and after you've left you've provided additional support.

All these things are great, you have more than fulfilled your obligation to your previous company. By the sounds of things, they are taking advantage of your good will and generosity.

"Why bother learning this stuff when we can just ask Guarneer and he'll do it for free!"

So, put a dollar figure to what they've asked.

If it's important enough, they'll pay and you'll profit from your work, if it's not, they will be 'forced' to figure it out for themselves and will stop bugging you.

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    Indeed. And, as often, things that have a cost are often valued more than things that are "free", for some psychological reasons... :) Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 20:25
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    This is how consultants are born. Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 20:36
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    @paulgarrett's comment is possibly the most important thing from the specific perspective of the OP's question. Answer would be improved if that were included. Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 1:07
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    Came here to say the same :-) Since OP seems to have a good relationship with former boss, he could approach it with boss along the line of: "I think I have given you everything you need to go forward, I am still emotionally invested to see this product and your company succeed, but due to personal circumstances I'll need to charge for consultancy if I am still needed in future." Needless to say, it needs to be market-related. If you love someone set them free ... and all that.
    – frIT
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 7:06
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    Hopefully they'll be forced to assess the value of your contribution; or else they'll give up and quit bothering you. The only downside is that, your present terms of employment may prevent you working for money for another company (at least in a similar field and/or without permission) and hence you may not be able to ask for money (they tend not to ban you for doing things for free, because who does that?)
    – Stuart F
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 21:40
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I guess the question is, how do I manage this relationship going forward?

You can't.

You don't work there. These folks don't work for you. You are looking for something (perhaps validation of your efforts) that does not interest them, no matter how much you might wish it was otherwise.

Time to move on.

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    You're right. I guess part of what was difficult to admit was to see how much neglect and carelessness they had. I wanted the project to live as I dedicated part of my life to it. But I am glad that I opened this question, because sometimes we just need to hear what we know from others.
    – Guarneer
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 15:40
  • @Guarneer Now you are aware why these articles keep complaining that millennial employees aren't dedicating themselves to their companies (they are working for the money and no other reason). It's because the companies don't dedicate themselves to the employees, and therefore, don't deserve dedication in return. Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 21:43
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    @Guarneer A company is made of its people. It lives or dies by the employees it chooses. This was true while you were there, and it's still true after you left. Even if you were still working there, you wouldn't be able to keep the product afloat on your own. Now the company has chosen, consciously or unconsciously, to deep-six the product--if it mattered more to them, they'd pay more attention to it. Time to stop agonizing over a decision you didn't make. Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 17:54
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You have made an exceptional effort to transfer your knowledge, going far beyond any possible moral obligation.

You owe them nothing more.

If you want to give away your time despite that not being appreciated and/or acted upon, you are free to do so. But if it's clear you aren't accomplishing anything, I submit that you should no longer want to do so, no matter how emotionally invested you are in the company's success.

You are no longer an employee. That not only means you aren't getting paid, it means you have no ability to drive their practice or policy.

Don't try to teach a pig to sing. All that achieves is to frustrate you and annoy the pig. Find a more productive outlet for your enthusiasm.

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Honestly. If the project is this much of a "passion project" for you, you should approach the company with a deal: Your continued help of any kind is conditional on their open-sourcing the project. Maybe even have an IP lawyer look at it to make sure it's all legal.

Now that it's open-source, you can direct teaching material toward anyone who cares, in public forums like Youtube or Github.

Now, you can be an evangelist for your project.

Don't ever press your help into people's hands. Think about how it was like for US Army trainers dealing with Afghans... contrasted with their experience dealing with Ukrainians. Help the people who want to succeed, those who want to fail let them not your problem.

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