Code Superheroes

Some of the things in my knowledge journey are technical skills. Others are soft skills.

Today I am learning the soft skill about recognizing and actively working to prevent a team from having one person who is the single point of failure.

Our company is going through some transitions, and members of the team are probing their inner selves, and some are finding that it is the time to transition to other products/paths/roles/etc. This is normal and OK and all part of the human experience.

But in just under 5 months, we went from a team of 12 to a team of 3. And one of the 3, is the only person remaining who knows how to manage our servers and keep our application up.

And now he is leaving.

And so we are commencing the Most Grand Knowledge Transfer of All Time, and I just keep thinking – what is the lesson in this?

Beyond learning Chef and how nginx/nagios/resque/Redis/NewRelic work, and beyond understanding the specific configuration of our 10 nodes, what is the takeaway?

It seems to be that documentation and duplication of knowledge is crucial. That having one person who is a wizard IS cool for awhile – because they are a wizard and it is awesome to work with a wizard – until they decide to leave.

Then what? Scramble to try and absorb Wizard Brain, and hope you are bringing your A-game each day and to each 3-hour meeting.

But is there a more sustainable way of architecting a team? I’m curious how other teams manage – but the silver lining is that I am learning Literally Everything in the process.

Written on December 8, 2014