NPM clings to its cuddly image – as senior staff vote with their feet: Now longtime product boss quits JS package biz

npm uninstall iarna

The cultural turmoil at JavaScript package management outfit NPM Inc, brought on by a leadership change and staff shakeup, has claimed another employee: product manager Rebecca Turner.

Turner, one of the first five employees at NPM Inc and who uses the handle iarna, announced on Tuesday on the npm community blog her plan to leave the company by April 19. Her post, directed at developers, makes no mention of her reasons for leaving beyond her acknowledgement that much has changed at the business in the four and a half years since she joined.

NPM Inc, for the uninitiated, oversees npm, the default package manager for the widely used JavaScript runtime environment Node.js. The small but vital Oakland-based startup serves billions of package downloads a week as a result.

Excluded

A letter Turner sent to some former colleagues, who in turn shared it with some of their associates, fills in the gaps as to why she's ejecting from the Bay Area upstart. The memo, seen by The Register, expresses her dismay at the way NPM Inc leadership dismissed people she managed without her involvement.

"My exclusion from the decision to terminate two of my direct reports, and the manner in which they were dismissed leave me unable to meet the responsibilities I feel all managers owe to their employees," she wrote.

After receiving a copy of the letter from a source, The Register asked Turner whether she'd like to comment further, and she declined. The memo echoes what other former NPM workers have said, that the management transition underway since last summer, and the reorganization that followed, were handled poorly.

Turner said she owed people that she hired honest feedback, open communication, support toward success, and, if necessary, dismissal in a way that's humane. The company's recent actions, she said, have made it impossible for her to carry out those responsibilities.

The justifications for the firings, she argued, were inadequate, and done too quickly. And she echoed the observation made by former developer advocate Frédéric Harper, who called the terminations unprofessional.

Frédéric Harper, at NPM

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"In every job ad, NPM has stated that 'compassion is our strategy' and that we aim for a 'sustainable approach,'" Turner wrote. "The dismissals and how they were handled directly contradict this."

The Register asked NPM to comment, but the company did not respond. In a statement provided for our previous report on Monday, CEO Bryan Bogensberger said he could not discuss personnel matters and noted the company is growing and hiring aggressively to support and grow the JavaScript ecosystem.

In a phone interview with The Register, Jane Kow, founder of HR Law Consultants, said she wasn't familiar with the circumstances of NPM's recent layoffs, though said in general it's important for businesses to approach things in a systematic way that has been clearly communicated and doesn't disproportionately impact certain groups.

"People leave companies and they become your customers and ultimately that affects your brand," she said. "What's communicated internally very quickly becomes communicated externally."

Without clear communication from business leaders, she said, the focus becomes individuals and it very quickly can get personal. ®

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