YOU WAITED UNTIL THE EXIT INTERVIEW TO ASK WHAT’S WRONG
The fun of solving problems and the joy of seeing something they’ve built come to life is what drives many software developers. Companies need to leave room for the best of them to keep conceiving of–and then executing–new ideas. “If someone who’s been coming to you with their ideas suddenly stops, it’s a huge sign they’re on the way out the door,”
.. “If you have someone saying, ‘I’m bored’ and you don’t do something about it, expect them to leave for a place where they won’t be bored.”
.. That’s why tech leaders should consider holding “stay interviews” with their most valued developers. When the ideas stop flowing or productivity sinks, it’s usually a sign you need to have this type of proactive sit-down.
.. When talking with team members, she probes for a longing to work on newer technologies and listens for any mentions of friends at other companies working on different projects. Even if these remarks are only made off-handedly, she knows they can be red flags. “Don’t be afraid to ask people questions,” she advises: “Are you happy? What’s making you stay? What would make you leave?”
She adds, “Asking ‘Are you okay?’ isn’t illegal.”
.. YOU’RE CONFUSING TEACHING WITH MANAGING
The traditional career path is linear, which often means pushing top talent down a management track, supervising others. Leaders may notice that one of their people enjoys teaching others, and then assume that they’d enjoy managing others.
Mentoring and managing might seem similar, but they’re entirely different skills. Management is really about getting work done through others, which makes it highly people-focused. Mentoring or instructing–especially when it comes to software development–is more about a knowledge-transfer of technical skills.
Be careful not to mistake a technical expert who enjoys teaching for one who enjoys managing. Instead, offer your best senior engineers more than just one kind of leadership opportunity; carve out a separate path for technical experts to advance up the ranks based on how well they help their junior colleagues “skill up”–even if that doesn’t involve managing their work.
.. “the number-one reason technical people quit is because they don’t have the option to advance without going into management.”
Szczepanski would likely agree; in his view, developers often get frustrated having to report to leaders who don’t have tech backgrounds themselves.