I have been with my company two years working with two senior software engineers. The other engineers created the bulk of our product catalog, including 10 years worth of legacy software.

The two senior engineers have left, and since then the company has hired three new engineers. While I am technically the most senior, I still haven't had a chance to work with the legacy software, but the new hires question me about it regularly. This is difficult, because while I know more than they do, it's not that much more.

How can I determine my new role and properly adapt?

  • Just advice them when you can. In 2 years you should have gained enough experience to be able to guide them, just have this in mind and in case you don't know the answer to something they ask be honest and research if you want to answer.
    – DarkCygnus
    Aug 9, 2017 at 17:44
  • 2
    @Zissouu Your question read a lot like a rant, but seems to me like a good question. I edited it and reworded it significantly, but I believe I kept the intent of the question in tact. If anything has changed or is no longer correct, please feel free to revert my edits.
    – Sidney
    Aug 9, 2017 at 17:56
  • @sidney thanks wasn't intended to be a rant but instead a logical question so thanks for the edits!
    – Zissouu
    Aug 9, 2017 at 18:12

2 Answers 2


Answer the questions you can.

When you can't answer a question, say you don't know the answer, but offer to help the other developer find the answer. Pair with them and dive into the code and figure it out together.

Your willingness to help will be appreciated and people will look to you for guidance. You will also learn about this legacy codebase so that you can answer questions better. Oh, and you'll learn a lot of other good leadership skills.

If you're cut out for a tech lead kind of role, you'll naturally grow into it as you do this. No one magically knows everything. Good leaders are good at learning quickly and making informed decisions. So just focus on that instead of worrying about what you don't know right now.

  • 1
    Good answer, and I agree with the general approach suggested here. Just be careful you don't end up being this guy. ;)
    – Steve-O
    Aug 9, 2017 at 19:57
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    True. That's why I recommended that OP help the other developer find the answer, rather than finding it for them. The hope is that the other developer will then feel more comfortable looking for answers on their own.
    – 2rs2ts
    Aug 9, 2017 at 20:03

I would talk with your manger. Have a direct meeting where you can state what you need to learn more about the legacy applications. It is not about your skills. It’s about not knowing what sounds like a large portfolio that took many years just too implement. Applications that are built in-house can be more complex since people have left and the documentation can be missing or sparse.

Are you trying to go through the code to understand as much as you can? Not sure if your just being really hard on yourself and stressed out because you are putting a lot of expectations on yourself.

I would let your teammates know that some parts of application you need to understand better. Perhaps, you focused on applications snd the engineers that left focused on others parts.

Be frank and honest. Hopefully your on a team that can learn together and share.

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