The Last Shark

For the last several years I’ve been an embedded software tester on a highly performing team. My beloved team, nicknamed the White Sharks, has been the source of much pride. As a tester, I obsess over producing quality code, and have been very proud of a team of great developers who bought into an approach that developing quality applications mattered. We had a strong Definition of Done, Quality Gates, and informal Working Agreements that allowed us to deliver good software at a fairly fast pace. In December of this year, the fabric of that team began to fall away.

In December, our Senior Architect left for another job. A couple months later, I think sometime in March, another great developer and architect left for greener pastures. Shortly thereafter, a third senior developer left. Weeks later, our Senior Devops Engineer left – and finally today, another dev left. This last developer had only been on the team for about a year, but he was the last team member remaining on a team that I have been a member of for many years. Finally, I am The Last Shark.

When people have departed, they have been replaced by some great guys and gals – smart, sharp and friendly developers and testers who have worked their guts out to pickup the pieces. These have been internal replacements, from other teams within our company (save one new-hire). While they’re amazing men and women, they don’t have the requisite domain knowledge to keep us going like we once were. I have been thrust into a team leadership role, I’m here trying to grab the helm of this fledgling ship to pull her away from the rocks and steer her into the deep bays, and, finally the open ocean.

I could talk about the technical challenges, but I’m writing this to talk about the personal challenges this has presented. When the third developer left I literally cried at my desk. Luckily, I work from home, because I would’ve cried in the office too. I knew it was an end of an era. I felt like things could never be the same, at least for a long time. More, for years I have shared the story of my life with these folks – they knew my kids, they knew I loved cats, and of the many personal trials and victories I’ve went through in my life. They knew I shouted in glee when I found a bug, and that I made a lot of noise during the course of the day, mostly talking to myself. I’ve tested their code, they’ve fussed at my intense drive for quality – but more than anything, I miss the people behind the code. I miss the people who wrote the code – not their knowledge, passion, and love for their job – but the people I shared my life with.

Those friends are gone, working with some other tester, sharing their lives with someone else – and I miss them. The absolute hardest part of my job the last 6 months has been losing people I’ve grown to love. There won’t be anymore work lunches, or chats about our families, lives or happenings of the day. Those days are gone, forever. We’re building a new team. I’ll get to make new friends and have new relationships, we’ll deliver some good code. They’ll get to know my kids and my quirks and that I love cats, if they stick around long enough. I’m hurting, and sad, and devastated – work relationships are important. I find myself feeling like I’ve been dumped, over-and-over again. However, it’s a job, and we’re all professionals – it’s not personal, and I know they didn’t leave me, or even because of me. But that doesn’t stop the pain or the hurt, or the feeling that I too should leave. But that feeling of wanting to leave, that’s the feeling of a quitter – and I’m not quitter, at least not yet. Most days, I’m pretty happy with the technology, my bosses, and the chores of the day. But everyday, I miss my Sharks. Farewell and following seas to my team: Greg, Thomas, Michael, Henry and Caden. Someday our paths may cross again. I’m forever grateful I got to share my journey with you, and you, me.

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