August 7, 2020

Your developer won’t get hit by a bus. They’ll get hired by Netflix!

Ryan Findley

You may have heard of the “bus factor.” The strategy and processes designed to cover for the sudden loss of a teammate. The story goes: you want more than one person in your business to have domain knowledge because they might get hit by a bus! Your business would lose all that experience and expertise in one tragic accident. The premise in isolation sounds ridiculous, but mitigating the “bus factor” is serious business.

Everything gets a lot easier if you select the right software and framework, primarily if you use Ruby on Rails. Rails itself is a full-stack framework that has a best practice for every piece of a web application. If you are committed to doing things “the Rails way,” you cut the total cost of ownership by A LOT. “Staying on the Rails” makes any new developer productive almost immediately (and will keep them “out of the weeds”). Sticking to the standards evangelized by the community and adding proper documentation (possibly in the form of useful tests) makes onboarding a breeze, which creates more productive developers, which makes hiring more accessible, which reduces your “bus factor.”

The only guaranteed way to save money is to spend it on reducing your “bus factor”. By investing in making the code of your application more straightforward and easier to understand, you make it easier to add developers and reduce the future occurrence of bugs. You’ll make working on your code more enjoyable (reducing the likelihood your developers will want to leave), and possibly most importantly: reduce the barriers (time/money) to building new features. If you haven’t been keeping an eye on this, and find yourself in a position to hire someone, then these tasks will be their first job every time you hire.

Thankfully, I have no personal experience with a colleague getting hit by a bus, but I know a few that have been hired by Netflix. Remember to look both ways before crossing a street and never underestimate the amount of money the FAANGs have to poach your talent. It is effortless to lose good talent. When (not if) your developer leaves to make $500k+ a year in the valley, you’ll be in a much better position with a lower bus factor to quickly fill the gap and keep moving forward.

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