My best friend who I introduced to my old company that is a start up (which you can read about here: Dealing with a negative reference from a old hostile employer) has turned out to be an extremely loyal employee to them. He is now heading into his sixth year there, I have since moved on and a lot happier as a project manager.

I am however concerned about his overall career development. He acknowledges that the way the project is currently being run is not professionally done. To give a quick summary how:

  • productivity is not measured properly using burndown charts, cumulative flow diagrams leaving employees vulnerable to management. A typical scenario, which happened to me and ironically my friend (upon joining), where management will threaten colleagues with the sack based on their subjective opinion of what productivity is without properly proving it.

  • The team lead does not manage his team, rather everyone is expected to work in an autonomous way without any proper guidance or roadmap for what needs to be achieved in a version. Hence, when things go wrong management is never liable but the developer ends up being from the combination of this and point a).

Why I am concerned

  • the company does not take career development seriously. He has been there for 6 years and has only worked on one application for the whole time. My friend is hitting his mid 30s now and hasn't got a diverse portfolio like other developers that I have interviewed as a PM.

The team lead also does not do career development meetings. He does not manage at all.

  • His skill set is becoming stale, since he has worked on only one application for the duration of his time there (written in c#), he is not learning other programming languages or frameworks for him to develop the experience to take on other type of projects. As a PM, I have put him forward for roles as a subcontractor but eventually went for somebody else with a much more diverse skill set.

  • the company does not respect him. Upper management just sees him as 'just a programmer', or a grunt. He is also being paid well below the market rate for someone who has been a commercial developer for 6 years.

  • There is no benefits package where he currently works - sick pay, training, 6 month pay rises. His first pay rise came after 6 years, and it was not that much.

  • The company does not follow best practices - no project management methodologies (Prince 2, Agile etc), test driven development is largely ignored.

  • He has put all of his eggs into one basket, if management turn against him (like they did with me), management will not think twice about leaving him without a good reference irrespective of the time he has given to the company.

I am concerned as a friend that he will become unemployable if that ever happened.

  • The start up is not doing well, only 6 sales in 6 years

Why my friend has decided to stay

  • He likes the fact that there is a lack of structured project management, where he can also work remotely. For him it means that he has less pressure (no sprints), and doesn't need to go into an office everyday giving him some anonymity.

  • He is not passionate about IT, he is just doing this role for a pay check at the end of the month.

I have been trying to encourage my friend to move on since after I did it, I realised that there were so many other decent companies out there where you can learn a lot from (and be paid more). He is not listening. Should I give up?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Mar 4 '16 at 0:28

There are many ways to run a development oganization. All the Agile stuff is good tools if applied properly but not the only tools nor always the best tools. "Best practices" is only a good default starting point when you don't have reasons for other practices.

And one application can be a decade or more's worth of rewarding work -- especially if you are going agile, in fact, where development is far from complete when the first version is released.

As far as the rest goes: That's his decision. Presumably he knows the trade-offs he is accepting. He may want something different at a different point in his career. If you've told him he could do better and he isn't interested, drop it until and unless he indicates that he wants that feedback.

"How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb?"

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  • Fair enough, but that is no excuse not to invest into career development, pay rises, and team work to help build your colleagues careers. Also, it's only after you work in an environment where there is no good project management in place that you realise how bad project management can affect not only the project but the careers of people working under that type of leadership. – bobo2000 Mar 2 '16 at 16:29
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    That's his decision, not yours.You've had your say. Butt out, or you risk losing the friend . – keshlam Mar 2 '16 at 16:33

Seems like you already have your answer. He's not passionate about IT and doesn't have to go into the office everyday. Looks like he values stability and freedom, which this job gives him. It's kind of nice.

It's probably very hard to understand, given your experience and when you know he's more capable, but some people are content to just do well-enough and live quiet lives.

Why not ask him more about what he is passionate in, and encourage him in whatever that is? He may be more receptive. This is all assuming he doesn't suffer from low self-esteem, depression, or confidence issues. And if he does, help him get help - then he will help himself.

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It sounds to me like your friend is not a very motivated individual.

You can choose to advise him on his actions, but at the end of the day you can't force him to accept your help or advice. Sometimes we have to let people make mistakes in order to get their heads screwed on straight.

Do not assume that simply because you are ambitious and growth oriented he should be as well. The fact (sad fact when related to a friend or family member) is that if everyone was that driven it would be a heck of a lot more difficult to get a good job. Not everyone is senior dev/team leader/management material.

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    Nor does everyone want to be. I'm still growing toward the first two, but am not driving myself crazy trying to get there -- I have enough driving me crazy already -- and I wouldn't touch formal management without huge incentives. Definitions of success, and degree of concern about career path, differ – keshlam Mar 2 '16 at 18:09
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    He might be a very motivated person. But the motivation is not the job. – Ed Heal Mar 2 '16 at 20:28

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