Finweek English Edition - - MANAGEMENT -

Sev­eral years back, Ryan Frischmann de­cided he wanted to get into soft­ware de­vel­op­ment, so he ap­plied for a job as a lead de­vel­oper at a small start-up in Rochester. Dur­ing his in­ter view, he learnt that the role would be shared with a cur­rent em­ployee who had been di­ag­nosed with ter­mi­nal can­cer. The idea was that they would do the same job un­til his co-worker got too sick to work or passed away.

Ryan recog­nised t hat t his was a unique sit­u­a­tion but he was will­ing to give it a tr y. “I thought it would be a great learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally,” he says. The ar­range­ment al­lowed his col­league the f lex­i­bil­ity he needed to con­tinue work­ing and gave Ryan the op­por­tu­nity to learn from a more ex­pe­ri­enced col­league.

The t wo men shared the same role and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties; Ryan worked full time at the off ice while his col­league worked from home when he was able to.

Ryan be­lieves that the most im­por­tant el­e­ment in mak­ing their re­la­tion­ship work was re­spect. “I made sure he made the fi­nal de­ci­sion on any­thing new in the de­vel­op­ment pipe­line,” he says. “My col­league had built t he soft ware f rom scratch. He felt it was an ac­com­plish­ment and so did I.” Ryan also worked to gain his co-worker’s trust. “I had to demon­strate to him that I un­der­stood his cod­ing and meth­ods. When he was sicker, he told me and the oth­ers that he was leav­ing his soft­ware in ca­pa­ble hands. This meant a lot to me.”

The job share lasted for nine months be­fore Ryan’s co-worker died, and Ryan has car­ried on in the role. He says the ex­pe­ri­ence has in­spired him. “My part­ner had a lot of pride in his work and com­pleted some of his best work when he was very sick. I never an­tic­i­pated the ef­fect it would have on me per­son­ally.”

Amy Gallo is a con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor at Har­vard Busi­ness Re­view.

© 2013 Har­vard Busi­ness School Pub­lish­ing Corp. © The New York Times 2013.

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