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I've Been Booted Out Of My Dev Role! What Should I Do?

jamesmh profile image James Hickey Originally published at yourdevcareer.com Updated on ・4 min read

A reader of my email newsletter had questions about some issues with a poor performance review that lead to him being moved to another department.

Here was his question:

Hi Man, I just subscribed to your newsletter and can't stop reading it.

I'm a developer and just started with a company in ***** 3 months ago. I'm facing a lot of stress and trouble and just had the worst feedback from my supervisor....

So I'm working now as frontend engineer, using Angular, typescript and other technologies.

This my third job after my first two internships. In my first, I was working heavily with JavaScript and when it comes to CSS we were using bootstrap and other frameworks.

My CSS skills weren't that great when I started my new job and it caused me troubles at work as my colleagues and supervisors have started to doubt all my skills as a programmer.

First I was told I can improve myself more then I was told I'm not good at all and I can't give any value to the company even if I got my css skills up.

They gave me a job now as QA tester and I'm quite disappointed and depressed.

How can I over being devalued and feeling worthless? That attitude makes me not wanna do anything at all.

I replied with the following:

That sounds no fun for sure.

I've seen that happen before, I'm wondering if you are in a similar environment?

How many devs are on that team? How large is the company? Are you guys building a new product, mostly maintaining an old one or more of a custom shop where you building lots of stuff for different clients?

I suspect the answers will be 5-20 devs, org of around 50-100 employees, building something new with tight deadlines....

He confirmed exactly what I had suspected.

Business Puberty?

Why did I suspect the environment I had laid out in my response?

I was on a team before that was under those conditions. I did see many people get fired all-of-a-sudden for poor performance, etc.

There was a very toxic attitude of high output (i.e. just getting tasks done as fast as possible).

Whether or not the tasks were done properly, the more "stuff" you got done then the happier the managers were. Yet, there was still lots of "red-tape" and processes to go through in order to get that "stuff" completed.

Is there something inherently wrong with an org of this size?

I would say it's a size where an organization enters into a sort of business puberty.

It's the boundary between a small business with the strategy of being a fast-moving, high-output start-up and a larger slower-moving and thoughtful organization.

You might say it's an identity crisis?

I think our reader has been caught in the middle!

My Advice

Now, it may be true that the reader isn't that great of a programmer. But, maybe he is?

However, this story is more of a reflection of the company than him.

This is his first non-internship job. He should be assigned a mentor. He should be expected to be in a stage in his career where he is still learning some fundamentals and putting them into practice.

For an organization to merely tell him he's not "good enough" means that the company has no idea how to train and nurture their own employees. It's an attitude that employees are mostly disposable rather than teachable.

Because of this, even the senior developers are not going to grow since they don't have mentors, career guidance and planning and even the expectation to grow! They are simply expected to complete all their assigned tasks.

My advice then is to get yourself ready to start looking elsewhere. You aren't even in the same position that you were hired for!

Some of the tips from the first edition of my career based newsletter or this article on Dev.to might help with getting started on this change.

At the time of writing this response, someone wrote a very relevant twitter thread on this exact subject! Good timing!

I think for the reader, this was a case of "[a] misalignment [about the] definition of "good work."

Was he ever told exactly what good work looks like?

Was he given a plan to improve?

Nope.

Again, I'd get started trying to look at getting my foot into the door somewhere else.

I don't like giving that advice. Sometimes it's better to do your best for a few more months, try to learn and grow, etc.

But in this case, the questioner has already been booted out of his dev role.

Thoughts?

What do you guys think? Agree? Disagree? I'd love to hear what you think! Leave a comment 😉.

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Discussion

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jenbutondevto profile image
Jen

Being told you can't provide any value to a company, even if you improve, is soul shattering. What even was the purpose of that, apart from fostering a toxic environment? This is entirely up to the supervisor/mentor doing a poor job of supporting their juniors. They really should've hired someone more senior if that's what they were looking for. Condolences to your reader, I hope he finds somewhere that values him!

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anortef profile image
Adrián Norte

I have worked as CTO and some other roles that required giving reviews to people and I had to read that three times to ensure I wasn't missing something. If someday I return to being a manager and I say something like that aberration of a review I really hope that I get fired for extremely gross incompetence.

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jamesmh profile image
James Hickey Author

Ya it's pretty shocking that a company would have such a culture...

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stevezieglerva profile image
Steve Ziegler

Great post!

I think organizations answering "Was he ever told exactly what good work looks like?" and "What are the roles and responsibilities of all team members?" would solve 90% of all staff and team performance issues.

The other 10% deserve "Was he given a plan to improve?"

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xeon1231 profile image
Pedro (A.R.S.) Costa

The only plan that this kind of company has is to close the maximum number of issues in the shortest time.

The manager of this soul devouring company set irrealistic targets to win projects and they accept anything that the client says. The manager knows that he finds easily cheap programmers who are willing to be slaves to pay the bills at the end of the month.

In this case, programmers are the bottom end, and clients are at the top end, followed by managers.

What is happening to this person is awful. Good luck in finding a company who isn't like that.

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laurieontech profile image
Laurie

If they can't help him to improve then they're creating other long term problems for the company. Companies that are unable to level up juniors are often unable to level up anyone, so people leave. Then they fear hiring juniors who don't improve and struggle to hire seniors and the resources that requires. I wish there was a way to give this company feedback, instead of this developer who is dejected and never should have been made to feel that way.

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jamesmh profile image
James Hickey Author

💯This company will suffer....

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codingcapella profile image
Amanda Capella

I was JUST in this position. After three months, however, I was told my work was great. Then suddenly...three months later...I was told the dev didn't want me, I didn't understand Rails, and I was slow.

FWIW, the metrics showed I wasn't slow , and it was ten year old small company with lots of older techs to acquaint myself with.

I did have a mentor for the first month, but he was instructed to stop helping me so he could get his work done. How can you hire a junior Dev and think she can go with absolutely no support? Eek!

Regardless, I left. They offered me a sales engineer position, and the company I worked for prior offered me a SDE II role (although I still feel junior, honestly...I prob always will).

Best decision ever.
Get out there. Network. Get your white boarding skills up to snuff and keep driving forward. That team didn't know .

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jamesmh profile image
James Hickey Author

Ya that's messed up. Most juniors needs like months of training just to get in the groove of things.

Glad you were able to get out of there!

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mickfeller profile image
Mick Feller

Get out of that company quickly! What a toxic environment.

I'm in an architect position where i do lots of hiring for a giant corporation and we always pair up junior devs with mentors. We give them a year to develop/train/learn everything they possibly can/want. And after that year is when we do an assessment of how good they are. That goes paired with weekly meetings with architects/managers/leads and senior devs in the company.

I always tell the juniors if ever anyone in this company puts anything in the way of you developing your growth progression or ever down talking you to let me know we will take care of that.

If a company isn't vested in their juniors you need to get out of there, there is nothing more excited to train someone and pass on all the knowledge you have as a senior.

I'll say it one more time.

Get out!!

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jamesmh profile image
James Hickey Author

Awesome! Sounds like a place I'd like to work at 🤜🤛

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kamranayub profile image
Kamran Ayub

Agree. I worked at General Mills for 7 years out of college as a programmer and would highly recommend them. They assigned me a technical buddy and even a social buddy to help me learn the culture and to become a better developer. Everyone there are amazing individuals who enjoy mentoring and I had senior members of my team all help me. I gave back the same way by being a technical buddy to interns too. I have no idea where he's located but if you're in the Minneapolis area, I'd check them out! They have a learning and mentoring culture that is excellent for developers. Not many people think of a cereal company but there are lots of technical positions there from web dev, DevOps, to infrastructure and cyber security. Good luck!

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gtanyware profile image
Graham Trott

Fascinating article! The same thing happened to me a year ago, though in slightly complex circumstances. I was a remote worker, around retirement age and suffering from oncoming hearing loss that made it difficult to keep up with the daily standups where several people often talked at once. The company was a similar size and engaged in a major technology change without much help being given for retraining.

Maybe they were right to lay me off with no warning; maybe not. But it was done with no attempt to look into my personal situation.

A year later I have few regrets; I've escaped from a rigid factory environment and can be myself again.

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mattmoranjava profile image
Matt Moran

I had this, kinda, at my last place, but the firm was already a mature one. A SME that had been running for 16 years or so, based in a small town to the south of Nottingham. The office was interesting to say the least - we were under a glass pyramid roof, that leaked badly enough that we were flooded out a couple of times & during autumn there were fallen leaves coming down inside the building, seriously. When it wasn't raining, in early February by 11AM it was over 32C.

They had a fairly mature app but no unit tests - no automated testing of any kind other than "Does it build? Does it run?" - and no fixed, agreed house style, so that the process for getting code accepted was down to a rigorous code review. Staff there were so busy though that the code review might be done by different people who each had their own dearly-held views about style, so you might be told to make a series of changes by one person & then told to undo most of them by the next. It was frustrating. No training was given, and woe betide you if you took to the internet to research anything. I was actually happy when they fired me, after I jokingly bought a palm tree for my desk, to get some shade under. I spent a few weeks getting myself back in the zone & now I'm with an agile shop much nearer to home. All my code has tests, all my tests run. I'm much less stressed.

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jamesmh profile image
James Hickey Author

That's quite a story! Sounds like you're much happier now 👍 Glad to hear.

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derek profile image
derek

Looking at it as a glass half full...

I think your reader definitely gained more than he thinks. He landed the job/role to begin with which was the first big Win (unless nepotism); otherwise typically most hiring processes are/can be pretty grueling and usually are five-ish interviews. The second W came in the form of real-world experience with tight and tough deadlines-- learning and working under pressure is invaluable and really is the best test for anyone...

True knowledge is the ability to apply what you know under intense pressure and or adrenaline.

And let's not overlook the fact that he got paid to learn, learn what it's like to work and collaborate with possibly an incohesive team, a tough boss/office culture, syncing and meshing with various workflows and preferences, time estimations, managing self-expectations and especially others expectations. But more importantly learned what he is good at, and maybe not so good at yet and what to work on as far as soft skills and job skills, what he likes and doesn't like in said experience/culture thus far.

You also said it best, he can start venturing out for other opportunities else where another iteration.

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adam_cyclones profile image
Adam Crockett

This reminds me of a job I once had, it destroyed my confidence, and although some of what was said about me was true, it didn't stop me finding a great role after that. I find larger companies are far more patient, and give you the shot you need. After all if Johnny can't do something then maybe Steve can. It's an experience I sympathize with but it leads to better things. Get out while he / she can!

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jamesmh profile image
James Hickey Author

Glad you found another role!

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scrabill profile image
Shannon Crabill

I agree that it is time to move on. However, this is still an unfortunate situation to be in and is not a reflection of their skills as a developer.