I realize that the answer to this question very much depends on the developer, but I thought I'd toss it out there anyway.

I've been the sole developer at my work for about 5 years and came on without much experience to boot (read: accepted a low starting salary). I do pretty much all of the planning, design, development, testing, deployment, maintenance, training, support and documentation for multiple web systems, including a CMS that hosts several websites and a suite of web apps (all built in-house) that manage $80M+ per year charitable giving campaigns, collect online donations, and handle other mission-critical stuff.

It's always seemed to me that it's all a bit much to expect a single developer to handle, and I've voiced this concern, but my employer has never seen fit to bring on any more staff. I'm also now concerned that some recent technical problems are overshadowing my successes and hurting my chances of achieving a decent salary anytime soon.

So I'd like to know if have a valid reason to believe that I deserve more for my efforts and appeal to my boss that the recent problems might be less about my competency and more due to the org's risky decision to rely on a single person to do all this work. Or is this just the way it is with many companies, and I'm just being a whiner?


Are you enjoying your work?

If not, tell your boss why. If he doesn't want to do anything about it, leave.

I was in a similar situation at my last gig. My boss's primary concern was cost. My primary concerns were quality, building a capable development organization, and having competent coworkers -- all things that are by and large at odds with trying to find the cheapest developers possible.

I spoke with him about it. He wasn't interested in changing. I left, and found a much better position. Best thing I ever did.


Sounds like you may deserve more for your efforts, and unfortunately you may need to find another job to get it.


Sounds like very poor management - if anything happens to you (especially something sudden and unexpected) they are going to be in a lot of trouble.


Start job hunting, collect offers so you can see your market value. Renegotiate your salary. (Personally I would switch after 5 years, just for the sake of change (if the work place is not amazing!))


Look at it from your boss's point of view. How much are you worth to him?

If you left, could he find someone to replace you for the same amount of pay?

If so then that's how much you are worth. If not then you need to explain that you do not feel that you are being adequately compensated for your work, and that if things don't improve then you might need to look for work elsewhere (of course, don't threaten to leave first, only if he doesn't respond to your kind requests).


If you can handle the daily workload comfortably, who is to say it is "too much". If you feel overworked, you should probably start by establishing the business value of the services you provide, and show that adding another salary cost is reasonable compared to that business value.

You being the single point of failure is another issue. Perhaps go on vacation for a few weeks?


I you want to play it politically, I'd go on a job hunt, get some offers, and then go back with a revised salary point.

Don't sell yourself short, 5 years of experience is more than a lot of other people.


I too am a lone developer in a big company, and find it difficult to gauge, much less convey, the value of my contributions.

Honestly, I think the best way to determine for yourself that you "deserve more" is to prove that you can in fact garner more by attempting to get a job elsewhere, even if you don't really intend to take it.

(1) you'll be better prepared should you need to actually find work in the next couple of years, (2) you'll have a better sense of the market salary for your skillset and level of experience, (3) if you get an offer, you'll be more comfortable knowing that you can leave the lower-paying job if it ever becomes too overwhelming, (4) you may be able to leverage an offer to get more from the current employer.

You could also consider leaving, but letting the employer know that you're open to consulting. If they bring on someone else who ends up not being able to keep up with everything that you could do, they might come back to you and either (a) hire you back at a higher rate or (b) pay you as a contractor at a much higher rate.

It is always a gamble, though.


You're definitely taking on too much. You're being taken advantage of. No question. Many will suggest you just quit and find somewhere that rewards you better - and that could well be the best outcome.

However on the assumption you really want to stay with this organisation, you need to get your workload to a balanced level, either by hiring or reducing your workload.

What's your boss like? Do you generally have a good relationship, but he can't get the budget? Or is there a relationship issue too?

Have you discussed seriously with them what would happen if you were to be taken ill and be suddenly unavailable? Or, more cheerily, if you won the lottery and moved to Hawaii?

Only you know the answers here, but assuming you're doing a decent job technically, you're absolutely justified in questioning the rewards and lack of extra recruitment, and I think you might do well to challenge your boss more assertively on these matters. Read about negotiation techniques, put forward a business-base case for an extra colleague etc. But fight your corner - sounds like your boss knows he can just fob you off.

Good luck.

Extra hint - sometimes higher-ups need to feel some pain to appreciate change is necessary. If you work 60 hour weeks and get everything done, there's no evidence there's a problem. If you work 40 - 45 hour weeks and the work starts to pile up then it becomes clearer some extra resource is needed. Basically - don't be scared to let some problems "bubble up" - within reason, don't neglect the critically important things.