I have been working at [insert name of large software company] for under 1 year. That time has been spent mostly on ops stuff and tests written in scripting languages. On my team, I am the only person (with the exception of one other person) who knows Scala, and on the same floor as me, I am maybe one of six. The company is transitioning to this testing framework written in Scala, and since I know the language, the task of writing tests in this new framework was given to me.

Now here's the thing. All programming language features aside, I don't know what I am doing. I don't know how the configuration or the setup or teardown works. The other programmers who have been using this framework have been around for way longer than I have and their desks are far away and it's not as convenient to work with them as it is with people on my own team who I have interacted with before. Like if I have a question and I ask someone on my team they tend to be more receptive than when I ask someone on the other side of the floor who hasn't ever actually had a conversation with me before. So yeah, I have this task and I don't know how to do it and even the words that come out of the people who I try to get help from are things I don't even understand.

What do I do when I am given a task that is more than I can handle?

  • Is the problem that you agreed to some deadline already? If so, are there any reasons you have not said right away task requires N days/weeks more time? Please, read "Saying No" from The Clean Coder for more information.
    – Roman Susi
    Oct 7, 2017 at 12:19

1 Answer 1


First, do not suffer quietly. The sooner you make noise about this problem the better. Tell management about the problem and the ideas you have to fix it.

You've identified people who might help. Go camp. Seriously, a few days away from your desk toys might do you some good anyway. Swap desks with someone if you have to. Learn everything you can. Take people to lunch.

Learning is always part of this job. Programming isn't just something you do with your fingers.

  • 2
    Not to mention that cross-pollination or knowledge exchange between teams is thought a very good idea by most sensible managers, there are some exceptions where security or confidentiality is a potential issue. Someone who picks up some knowledge of the other teams work may be able to fill in on that team if needed, explaining what you do and why is usually a growth opportunity for the person doing the explaining. Many managers value someone who knows and flags their own limits over someone who burns budget with little results or later requires someone else to sort it out. Oct 7, 2017 at 5:38

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