I'm resigning from the startup that I work at on Monday, giving the US-standard notice of two weeks. I am the sole developer on one of the platforms that our product supports, to the extent that no one else at the company even knows the programming language that I develop in. This arrangement is reasonably typical of startups, from what I've seen.

I've already handled documentation within reason, but again, no one at the company will be able to use it at a high level without quite a bit of studying. Typically, the notice period is used to transition to a replacement or to teammates, and I've watched this work very well on slightly larger teams (3 or 4 people) but I don't have the latter, and the chance of finding the former within a day or two (so that there would be time to transition before my last day) is roughly zero - even if we did find someone, they'd likely want to give similar notice at their current position anyways.

What should I do or propose once the transition period begins? What should my manager (or the CEO, or anyone, it's a startup!) do?

The subject of the resignation itself is covered in these questions, but this question is specifically about how to handle the transitioning period, from both ends.

  • Are there other developers that just aren't familiar with the programming language? Presumably, they would at least be able to read the code and documentation even if they weren't completely familiar with all the language constructs. Are there business analysts that could ensure that the current functionality is documented? Jun 23, 2016 at 23:28
  • 3
    Why are you worried about this business in particular? You are under no such obligation to do anything for them. You are leaving, for one reason or another, so I am sure I would NOT go out on a limb and make sure everything is buttery smooth for them upon departure. Are you getting some kind of special compensation? Are there personal at this company that you have relationships beyond professional (long time friend, founder, spouse, etc.)? Are using them for references specifically or something? I don't see why you would need to be so worried or concerned about a company that you do not own.
    – G.T.D.
    Jun 23, 2016 at 23:47
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    @B1313 There's no way to be sure that I won't be using anyone from this company as a reference in the future. Why would I want "They quit normally" instead of "They did an excellent job of transitioning" as that potential future reference? I might even end up with an opportunity to work with someone from this company again. I could quit on the spot (at-will), so my willingness to work two additional weeks already is helping them on departure. Basically - why wouldn't I want this to go as "buttery smooth" as possible? Why should I default to hostility or mediocrity?
    – katie-92
    Jun 24, 2016 at 0:02
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    @katie-92 As in my answer, you should do a proper handover. You tick all the boxes that are within your authority. Be the professional, and you will be viewed favourably in future.
    – Jane S
    Jun 24, 2016 at 0:19
  • 1
    If they don't/can't pay what you need or provide adequate support or whatever other reason you're bowing out,, they have made the decision that they can live without you better than they can live without the money. If that means a platform goes unsupported until they can train up or hire in the needed skills, that's their call. Beware of bending over backwards "for the needs of the business" -- too often it is not appreciated.
    – keshlam
    Jun 24, 2016 at 0:33

2 Answers 2


Simply put, the situation you find yourself now in is not of your making. It is of your managers and of the business owners for not managing risk. They should have been staying ahead of the bus factor long, long before this point.

What you do:

  • Ensure everything is documented such that a reasonable developer can pick up what you have done and run with it;
  • Ensure that you have written a job description for your successor, especially required technologies and skill sets;
  • Be involved in interviews if any are able to be scheduled before your departure; and finally
  • Leave and move on to your next job.

There is nothing more you can and should do beyond this. It's a management fail. Do a clean handover within the constraints of time and resources and move on.

  • 2
    @B1313 I have done this for every single role when I have moved on. Not because I've been asked to, but because as a professional, it's the appropriate process to follow. It doesn't matter if others have acted unprofessionally. What matters is my conduct. I can't control theirs. I can control mine.
    – Jane S
    Jun 24, 2016 at 0:34
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    I am not saying you should not do it, I am saying to not do so without approval from management. Companies get finicky when someone they know is leaving and might try to pull something so it is always good to cover yourself. For example, interviews like you said: I would not allow anybody who is leaving to be involved with the interviews because it is not right or proper to give that person access to a candidate who is coming in and potentially misinform the candidate. Job descriptions, again...they might not want the future candidate to do everything you did nor even keep the position.
    – G.T.D.
    Jun 24, 2016 at 0:39
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    @B1313 Oh, I see the confusion now :) I mean you prepare the relevant information to cover your role, which your employer can then choose to use or not. As far as interviews, it's entirely up to your employer if they wish you to attend. But you need to ensure they have as much information as they can to try to recruit someone who can fill your role. What they choose to do with it is beyond your control :)
    – Jane S
    Jun 24, 2016 at 0:44
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    That hasn't really been my experience, and I wouldn't go as far as saying "don't do anything unless told to." Instead, I would suggest "Plan to do a normal handover unless told not to." :)
    – Jane S
    Jun 24, 2016 at 0:53
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    The reality of many startups is that there is one person in each role (e.g. one frontend, one backend, one Android, one iOS), so I don't think it is necessarily a failure of management - this isn't a BigCo where the company can afford to hire more people than is absolutely necessary. I absolutely don't blame myself for this, but I am asking what the optimal and typical way to handle this situation is.
    – katie-92
    Jun 24, 2016 at 20:24

You put in your resignation with two weeks notice. In these two weeks, you should do your job as you are asked to do it. Whatever problems the company has after the two weeks is not your problem. That's it.

Any damage is not your responsibility, it is your company's responsibility. They should either have made sure that they can run fine without you, or should have done more to keep you there. Not your problem.

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