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I've been a part-time employee for 6 months at a small software company that has just signed a bunch of significant contracts over a broader scope than we were prepared. After several failed attempts at hiring new interns, deadlines started to arrive and I've been offered the option to become full-time. Other than the increased demand, there were a few key factors in their decision:

  1. My contract expired on January 1st. The partner responsible for renewing it was unable to show up in time due to personal issues, but she's back and handling it. I haven't signed it yet.
  2. I'm about to graduate, so I don't have classes left to attend and the university can no longer prevent me from working full-time.
  3. The project I've been assigned to is huge, poorly documented, approaching the deadline, and heavily reliant on our technology stack. Even if an experienced developer showed up tomorrow, s/he wouldn't be able to study it and deliver results by the end of the month.

I accepted and started right away, even without a signed contract, because time was running out. However, I found it is a job far above my skills. There are a lot of tools I have never used before. Requirements change on a daily basis. I've been working from 7 AM to 8 PM, with barely any pauses, and nearly missed the first delivery.

So, I don't mind the extra work and the stress, but I feel like putting my personal life on hold all of a sudden should be rewarded accordingly. That being said, I've had several opportunities to bring the issue to their attention, but held back to avoid a distracting discussion at work. Unfortunately, only now I have realized that by not pushing back, I've set them unrealistic expectations.

My main concern is about the overtime. Everyone at the company is on salary, so 40h/week is essentially a suggestion. In fact, I arrive at the office several hours before anyone else, which means there's a lot of hidden work. Still, I have stopped exercising, taking language classes, training other skills to make it work. I need them to either give me extra vacation time to focus on those things or just pay the hours, both options seem fine to me. So, whittling down the question, what I want to ask is:

  1. How can I approach the partners about the overtime? I want to be assertive but still be seen as a team player. There's already some history among us, and the end of the contract means termination is a possibility.
  2. What should I prepare for? If, instead of the yes/no answer, what kind of compromises should I consider if I want to remain where I am?
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    "Requirements change on a daily basis." + "What should I prepare for?" = Failure. Prepare for failure. If they can't nail down requirements and freeze them with a reasonable lead time ahead of the delivery deadline, the project is doomed. – Wesley Long Jan 19 '18 at 1:31
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    7 AM to 7 PM, 5 days a week is not part-time. If you decide to work full-time, would it be a solution to just work your contracted hours (i.e. 40 hours per week, not 55 as you seem to have been doing for some reason up till now). – Brandin Jan 19 '18 at 10:35
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    "Failure" means you will not have a deliverable project. If the project's requirements are changing, you cannot ever meet the requirements, and you will be unraveling or throwing out completed work to change foundational elements. – Wesley Long Jan 19 '18 at 15:30
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    @Brandin salaried positions don't have fixed hours of work - what the OP's manger should be doing is descoping the project requirements – Neuromancer Jan 19 '18 at 16:31
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    @Neuromancer OP said "I arrive at the office several hours before anyone else" and he might be overworking himself. Extra effort is generally good, but too much is too much. – Brandin Jan 19 '18 at 16:35
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How To Approach The Partners

There's no magic bullet here. You're just going to have to do it. Set up a meeting with those who make decisions related to what you want. Set an agenda if you must. Do not let them brush it off.

Do this immediately. You've already said you've given them unrealistic expectations. Be honest, they will (have to) understand.

Even if you agree to work like you are now, for the same pay, you're body will quit on you eventually. It's called burnout and it's a real, mental problem that will hurt you. Trust me, 40 hours per week is standard. Don't think of it as a guideline. Developers are in way too high demand for employers to work them to death.

I know you're young, and you have feelings towards this company and its people. You feel responsible for the deadlines, customers, partners, etc. Try to understand that you're an employee, and a part-timer on top of that. If they are depending on you that much, especially at 60+ hours per week, that's their fault.

What To Say

It sounds like there are two possibilities here. Either they depend on you working so much, or you are working so much just to keep up.

Honestly, if they depend on you, forget about overtime. This beyond that. That's worth more than paying for your extra hours.

Second, you should not continue to work like that.

Be extremely assertive. It sounds to me like you are in a much stronger position than they are. Ask for a raise. Also, make it clear that after the next deadline (maybe give them a couple months), you are cutting your work hours to something else (be specific, say 45 or 40 hours per week).

However, if you are doing all of this extra work just to keep up with everyone else, simply tell your employers that you are cutting back to 40 hours. Maybe give them 1 more week of overtime. Ask to be properly compensated, but don't budge on cutting back. Almost any decent software company pays their employees to learn new skills.

Your Expectations

Expect a negotiation. Expect to be brushed off. Don't let them do this. Don't budge.

If you want to be healthy, you need to cut back on your hours. Don't consider a compromise in any way, other than doing it for 1 more week or until the next deadline, and only if you're compensated.

Second, this is beyond what is expected of junior developers. If they depend on you, you're in good standing to get a raise and a promotion. Learn what mid-level developers get paid in your area. Make sure you're being paid the same or more.

Be prepared to accept a bad offer or leave. My suggestions are risky. If your employer says "no", you need to look for another job immediately, unless you want to be stuck.

You're biggest challenge in your situation will be to remain strong. This is very hard as new developer. But in most areas, companies are begging for developers like you, and will be willing to pay you more money for less stress.

Extra Notes

No matter what you do, you need to realize how your company stacks up to other places. It sounds bad. As pointed out in the comments, constantly changing requirements is going to spell failure later on.

Second, it sounds like your company has no concept of Capacity Planning.

Third, you are a new, young employee with no stock in the company (I hope). Do not feel responsible for any failures here. It sounds like at least some will happen.

I really hope the company pulls through and learns how to do all the things I've described. Software is a lot of work, a lot of planning, and can get out of hand very quickly. You, as a developer, are valuable. Job hopping in your field is basically an instant career jump, both in compensation and title.

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    All very good points and they should not seemingly be reliant on a fresh graduate - where is the senior or technical lead that should be managing the work that the OP does – Neuromancer Jan 19 '18 at 16:32
  • Thank you for your answer. It was an invaluable piece of advice and I wouldn't be able to proceed without it. I wish I was more assertive then but I guess that's also a skill I need to practice. In the end, I ended up giving in and accepting those hours. I did get a proportional compensation for the extra hours, as well as a sizable bonus on top. The project was finished successfully and I learned a lot from it, including the lesson that the stress is just not worth it. – Ramon Melo Mar 7 '18 at 11:15
  • @Neuromancer There was none. There was a product manager (handling documents and deliverables) and a database administrator (who ended up doing a lot of backend coding, as well). What was delivered is significantly distinct from what was initially contracted. I'm actually shocked the client was pleased with the result since it is definitely a different application than the one he had in mind. – Ramon Melo Mar 7 '18 at 11:25

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