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In Software, When an Engineer Exits the Team

- By kimaneohakim67
Publish Date : 2021-10-06 08:25:51
In Software, When an Engineer Exits the Team

Being a software engineering manager has its difficult people bits. When a team member gives their notice to leave, it’s personal and straightforward.

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When the Notice is Given
I knew that the notice was coming. It would be rare that I was caught off-guard. The lingering spidey sense I’ve felt had been correct. I’ve lived with the “yeah, it’s coming” weeks prior. The tip-off was the questions they ask, the doubts they have, and odd days out of office. And for those that care, a burst of contributions.
Then there is a request for a rare one-on-one before the week is out. It’s here.
As we go through the motions, I listen, ask questions, and find levers to negotiate. But rarely do I find something to keep the person on, their mind already made up. I respect that.
When I close the video meeting, I settle. My mind is racing. “Can I try something to bring the person back?” A list of grievances sets in, and I go through a loss cycle for days. It’s a breakup. I let go.
What Happens Later
As I execute communications with the team, crafting the transition plan and the celebratory send-off, I ask myself, “What could have been different?” There are answers. I could have improved the environment, the work, the team — myself. I write the conclusions down to be taken care of, reflecting on what I’ve learned.
There are moments during the transition where I battle an aggravated ego. But I check myself, calm down, and refocus back on this individual. I want them to succeed, and me stepping to hinder that would be incorrect. I’ll send recommendations and smile. They will become a better person because of this, and so will I.
Once the person leaves, team nature dislikes a vacuum. There are opportunities for others. They step up and stretch. No one is irreplaceable, and no one is an island. But the knowledge is lost, eminence gone, and it’s a pivot, for now, this new team.
Self Reflections
This notice is not the first nor the last I’ll experience. Nor will the team. It is a continual procession of people, great people doing their very best. But this role wasn’t a fit, and the timing was off. The environment was not correct. The work didn’t have the impact they wanted, finding their dream job instead. Perhaps I was ineffective at communications, championing above, or slow at sponsoring elsewhere. Or the baffling outcome, their asks were all achieved as they exit.
And occasionally, the software engineer realized that the job was hard. They weren’t performing. They knew, and so did I. And on that occasion, it’s a relief.
Then I reflect on all of those managers that had experienced the same with me. I’ve left a few jobs this way. Now I understand a bit more. It’s just business, but in no way do I sense that people can be that frosty. Each experience resonates.
And for those teams where I got up and left as the manager. There was a special memory leaving them where they stood. I wasn’t expecting those intense feelings when walking away the first time. They don’t write that in any of the books I read.
The Continual Graceful Exit
The good news is there are plenty of opportunities in software engineering. It’s comforting. Fluidity is what I like about the industry; it eats the world. And in some way, it grinds.
In my experience, there is an interesting observation. Once an engineer, and now as a manager, many people have come and gone. In software, people do fire themselves, as in they leave of their own volition. It’s hardly the other way around.
My goal is to treat someone well on their first as well as their last. I want the chance to cooperate later. While I don’t have much evidence on how other managers handle these situations, a graceful exit between us leads to better future outcomes. And that is how we say goodbye.

Being a software engineering manager has its difficult people bits. When a team member gives their notice to leave, it’s personal and straightforward.
When the Notice is Given
I knew that the notice was coming. It would be rare that I was caught off-guard. The lingering spidey sense I’ve felt had been correct. I’ve lived with the “yeah, it’s coming” weeks prior. The tip-off was the questions they ask, the doubts they have, and odd days out of office. And for those that care, a burst of contributions.
Then there is a request for a rare one-on-one before the week is out. It’s here.
As we go through the motions, I listen, ask questions, and find levers to negotiate. But rarely do I find something to keep the person on, their mind already made up. I respect that.
When I close the video meeting, I settle. My mind is racing. “Can I try something to bring the person back?” A list of grievances sets in, and I go through a loss cycle for days. It’s a breakup. I let go.
What Happens Later
As I execute communications with the team, crafting the transition plan and the celebratory send-off, I ask myself, “What could have been different?” There are answers. I could have improved the environment, the work, the team — myself. I write the conclusions down to be taken care of, reflecting on what I’ve learned.
There are moments during the transition where I battle an aggravated ego. But I check myself, calm down, and refocus back on this individual. I want them to succeed, and me stepping to hinder that would be incorrect. I’ll send recommendations and smile. They will become a better person because of this, and so will I.
Once the person leaves, team nature dislikes a vacuum. There are opportunities for others. They step up and stretch. No one is irreplaceable, and no one is an island. But the knowledge is lost, eminence gone, and it’s a pivot, for now, this new team.
Self Reflections
This notice is not the first nor the last I’ll experience. Nor will the team. It is a continual procession of people, great people doing their very best. But this role wasn’t a fit, and the timing was off. The environment was not correct. The work didn’t have the impact they wanted, finding their dream job instead. Perhaps I was ineffective at communications, championing above, or slow at sponsoring elsewhere. Or the baffling outcome, their asks were all achieved as they exit.
And occasionally, the software engineer realized that the job was hard. They weren’t performing. They knew, and so did I. And on that occasion, it’s a relief.
Then I reflect on all of those managers that had experienced the same with me. I’ve left a few jobs this way. Now I understand a bit more. It’s just business, but in no way do I sense that people can be that frosty. Each experience resonates.
And for those teams where I got up and left as the manager. There was a special memory leaving them where they stood. I wasn’t expecting those intense feelings when walking away the first time. They don’t write that in any of the books I read.
The Continual Graceful Exit
The good news is there are plenty of opportunities in software engineering. It’s comforting. Fluidity is what I like about the industry; it eats the world. And in some way, it grinds.
In my experience, there is an interesting observation. Once an engineer, and now as a manager, many people have come and gone. In software, people do fire themselves, as in they leave of their own volition. It’s hardly the other way around.
My goal is to treat someone well on their first as well as their last. I want the chance to cooperate later. While I don’t have much evidence on how other managers handle these situations, a graceful exit between us leads to better future outcomes. And that is how we say goodbye.

Being a software engineering manager has its difficult people bits. When a team member gives their notice to leave, it’s personal and straightforward.
When the Notice is Given
I knew that the notice was coming. It would be rare that I was caught off-guard. The lingering spidey sense I’ve felt had been correct. I’ve lived with the “yeah, it’s coming” weeks prior. The tip-off was the questions they ask, the doubts they have, and odd days out of office. And for those that care, a burst of contributions.
Then there is a request for a rare one-on-one before the week is out. It’s here.
As we go through the motions, I listen, ask questions, and find levers to negotiate. But rarely do I find something to keep the person on, their mind already made up. I respect that.
When I close the video meeting, I settle. My mind is racing. “Can I try something to bring the person back?” A list of grievances sets in, and I go through a loss cycle for days. It’s a breakup. I let go.
What Happens Later
As I execute communications with the team, crafting the transition plan and the celebratory send-off, I ask myself, “What could have been different?” There are answers. I could have improved the environment, the work, the team — myself. I write the conclusions down to be taken care of, reflecting on what I’ve learned.
There are moments during the transition where I battle an aggravated ego. But I check myself, calm down, and refocus back on this individual. I want them to succeed, and me stepping to hinder that would be incorrect. I’ll send recommendations and smile. They wil



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