While my question is similar to this question, my situation is a bit different.

I am part of a small development team consisting of two developers, my firend/colleague and myself. There is also a senior developer, but he is mainly focused on the database side, and does not write any code for the application itself.

I was intending to find another job (for various reasons, like the fact that the current job has a fairly long commute time and I also wanted to try my hand at something different). However, my friend/colleague announces that he got offered a job somewhere else and submitted his resignation. This blindsided me, since I had no idea he was also looking for another job. However this leaves me as the only developer who knows the details of how this application is structured (my friend/colleague had free rein to structure that part of the application as he pleased, but I still understand how the majority of it is structured).

Now unlike the question I linked to, I have no interest in figuring out what leverage I have over the company, I just want to know how to handle quitting without burning any bridges, since odds are I might leave before they can hire more developers for the project (they were already looking to hire developers before my friend/colleague quit). They are really great guys, but like I said, I am just looking for something else at this point so I would like to be as respectful of the situation as possible.

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    Related - How to prepare for getting hit by a bus – David K Apr 23 '15 at 12:44
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    What makes you think another developer can't look at your code and figure it out? – user8365 Apr 23 '15 at 14:05
  • This actually puts you in a good position, because it initiates the whole "we need to make sure this application is properly documented" discussion. Help him work on the documentation as he prepares to leave, then it will be even easier for you to leave when the time comes. – Dave Johnson Apr 23 '15 at 15:21

This related question really address a lot of the issues you're dealing with. I'm going to drop my two cents:

1. Paid leaves

This does not mean submitting your leave notice 2 months ahead. Say you're required to give 1 month of prior notice, and you have 10 days of paid leave left. That means practically your leave notice is only 2 weeks. It'd be nice if you work for the month, then ask your company to compensate for your 10 days by paying you two weeks salary.

2. Write things down

Here's the thing: if you write down any hidden tricks you used in your code, briefly describe the project structure, things that are in progress, etc., you're doing a favor to both yourself and your next developer: he doesn't have to call you, and you won't be bothered with calls asking you to explain stuff.

3. You have the right to leave

Any boss understands that running a small development team is risky, because the impact on the team is large even if a small number of team members decide to leave. But that does not bound you to the team. You are under employment to work for the company, and your contract has already addressed the issue of you wanting to quit (most likely, a notice before x days of leaving). You have worked professionally and have already been compensated for that.

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    Most important here is #3. Don't get "guilted" into staying longer or not finding a new job. Your health and career are more important. They may have some bumps in the road, but they will survive. – Bill Leeper Apr 23 '15 at 14:02
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    Upvoted for #3 alone - you have the right to develop your career and personal life as you see fit. The way you quit a job when you're the "last developer" is the way way you would quit the job normally (because hopefully you would normally be polite, professional and wish to hand things over properly because you want to leave on good terms... right?). Their staffing issues are not your blocks to your personal or career life goals. – Rob Moir Apr 23 '15 at 14:11
  • "Any boss understands that running a small development team is risky". Any experienced boss should understand... doesn't mean they all do! – Philip Kendall Apr 23 '15 at 18:14
  • #1 does not apply in many countries (taking paid leave postpones the last day of work, it does not reduce the leave notice). – Étienne Apr 23 '15 at 18:14

You haven't even started looking yet, so the prospect of your quitting is a bit premature.

If you find anything AND you have that written offer in hand AND you have conveyed your acceptance to the company who made you the offer, then you walk into the management's office and give your two-week's notice. Add that you are willing to provide transitional support after-hours and during lunch time on a consulting basis at a rate that is commensurate with your current compensation package - You are good to them, they should be fair to you. Apply the same rule to everyone you do business with unless you are donating your time: if you are doing work, then you should be paid for it.


If you really care about the team and don't want to burn bridges, then start documenting the basics of your job. Create some cheat sheets on how to do various tasks and some things that explain how things work together. If you left this is what a new developer would need to hit the ground running.

I also wouldn't mention that you are looking unless you want to be in a rather tense work environment. The fact that you are the only developer left has probably made management tense, and if they think you might leave they might start expecting you to work twice as fast - this has happened to me.

One thing you could do if accepting an offer is try to delay the start date (4 weeks) and explain to the current company that you did this out of loyalty to them. I would also explain the situation to the new company (whatever they choose on the start) that your old company may need your help for a certain amount of weeks outside of work hours. You need to get permission from your new employer before you start helping old employer if that is a route you want to go.

But since you know you want to leave for sure then just document, document, document. And start training whoever you can on the most basic tasks. Even if this is just where do I find the passwords, documents, how-tos, it is good to start doing this as soon as possible.

  • And at the moment you hand in your resignation, suggest your boss that you should sit together ASAP to decide on the best course of action for the remaing weeks that you are there. – Jan Doggen Apr 23 '15 at 14:01
  • BTW I would not offer the old company to help for a certain amount of time outside of your new work hours. Only when they request it, consider this, and be very strict about the limits (periods and times). – Jan Doggen Apr 23 '15 at 14:03
  • @JanDoggen - Exactly on both points. If they need help that will come up during your 2-4 weeks and then you can make arrangements, if you want. Them just knowing that you want to help and get them working with a new dev person will mean a lot to management. Also a good time to be honest with them about why you are leaving. Since you like the company and there were other factors they will appreciate hearing this too. – blankip Apr 23 '15 at 14:03

Your question sounded familiar, and as one of the comments noted, there are some other links that can help.

Ah, I found it: someone asked a similar question on Programmers.se, but of course the mods have labeled it off-topic so read it before it's gone.

In short, it speaks well of your sense of professionalism that you don't want to leave your employer in a bad situation. However, it is also not technically your problem. Management is responsible for succession planning and if they've not done this, it is not your responsibility.

However, you can indeed do things while you are still there that would help:

  • offer a two-week notice (or even a little more) on your resignation
  • publish a wiki or documentation that will help your replacement
  • As Vietnhi Phuvan said in his answer, arrange for post-separation support. In my case I helped out with occasional phone calls for free but if issues require more time then he's right that you should be compensated for your time.
  • Help in any way you can with getting your replacement. It's already been mentioned to document the system and processes, but also offer to take part in the hiring and training process

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