And why you should expect some unexpected losses

1 minute read

Recently, my job lost an employee that was working on a project with me. The work was pretty well split up - I was able to work on my stuff without knowing too much about what he was doing and vice versa. We’d need to deconflict a few things once we were both ready to push our code, but for the most part we could work independently of each other. It was great.

Unfortunately, that employee left the company a few weeks back and different people were brought in to help with the project. The exit was sudden and unexpected, and it’s the first time I’ve really experienced the true meaning of bus factor. If you’ve never heard the term before, it’s the idea of how problematic it would be if a particular employee were suddenly hit by a bus and died. The former employee was alive and well, but when he left the knowledge he had essentially died, and those that remain now have to pick up the pieces.

Because our work had been so independent, I knew very little about what he was doing. Luckily he was able to do one final check-in of his code to a branch he was working out of, but it was clear that there was some work-in-progress. Management on the team has a good top-level view of what the end product should be, but the technical underbelly was only known to the employee who is no longer around.

As of this writing, we’ve answered most of the questions we had when new people were brought into the project, but I’m still feeling the sting of a sudden loss. I really don’t fault the employee, for the record. I’m sure if I was suddenly gone tomorrow that people would have a hell of a time figuring out what I was working on - but knowing what it’s like being the one left behind is certainly going to influence how and where I leave comments and the state of things when I commit my code.

None of us plan to get hit by a bus - but maybe we should. 🤷‍♂️


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