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Quick background, I have a degree in computer science and took a job as an entry level developer a few months ago. The company is in the electronics industry and produces hardware, but there is a lot of internal software development.

I have no background in electronics/radio frequency, but it is something that is interesting to me and I was offered the job with the understanding I had ZERO knowledge in the fields of EE and RF. When I started my manager went over some training goals for the first six months and one is learning RF basics so I have a basic idea of what people are talking about when I am speaking with a technician or engineer.

So far I am picking up the basics and have done programming related to using RF equipment and working with RF basics. However, recently a project has come up that, in my opinion, is well beyond my knowledge and far beyond what I would think would reasonably be expected of me at this point. I've told my boss that while I understand the basics of the project, the actual calculations, implementation I am not comfortable with, but he hasn't really given my any answer or direction either way.

Since this is bound to come up again in the next two or three days, how do I best explain to my boss that while I have made progress with learning the basics and have demonstrated this through my work, this new project requires a level of knowledge that is significantly greater than what I have only having three months of RF and EE experience?

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    If we only ever do what we already know, we wouldn't learn anything. Have you considered that your boss knows this project is taking you out of your depth and is using it to educate/train you? Frame questions around what you don't know yet, do some research, and take it to your boss and say "I have questions, I think these might be the answers, but could you help guide me" - don't just go to your boss and say "I don't know" and expect him to provide all the answers – HorusKol Apr 10 '18 at 2:30
  • I am confused. In the 3rd paragraph you have said that you have already told your boss that you feel the project is beyond your skillset. If so, then what are you actually asking? Do you feel that your boss doesn't believe you? Or is the real question something like How do I ask my boss for the resources I need to succeed in this project? (with the resources perhaps being a suitable mentor) – Peter M Apr 10 '18 at 2:57
  • How is the project going to be run? Are you in control of the deadline or do they 'produce' one? – Jeroen Apr 10 '18 at 8:11
  • Are you on your own on this project, or do you have a more experienced colleague working with you that could mentor you? – everyone Apr 10 '18 at 9:29
  • Does your project involve a commercial process that's been done by your company again and again? If you're particularly unsure about the flow of steps, looking back upon the documentation and implementation for a similar process done by someone else is a good place to begin. – CKM Apr 11 '18 at 14:11
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Your manager won't have just forgotten overnight that you're a fresh grad and don't have much EE experience. He'll likely be pushing this bigger project on you to see how you cope.

So given this, you don't just say "this project is too much for me" and refuse to do it. You carefully and methodically outline the specific parts that are still beyond you, and ask for training / support / mentoring / guidance in these specific areas. That way you show that you've thought about it, identified gaps in your knowledge, and taken steps to address what you don't know. From this your manager may well assign a mentor, send you on training courses, recommend books / online material to read, or a combination of all the above.

If he refuses any kind of support after this (unlikely, in my experience) then that is somewhat worrying - but even in that case, you make sure you have a clear record of your concerns in writing so you can't be blamed if it all goes wrong, then you push ahead with the project, drawing on the resources you can to do as good a job as you can.

  • I think this is a good answer, although I would be more proactive in the second paragraph. Instead of just outlining the parts that are beyond you, try to find the answers yourself and get validation versus simply asking for the answers. Maybe there's an actual RF engineer there who would spend half an hour with you, or you can talk to someone else on the software team, or an online resource, or something - asking for validation/tweaks to direction is much more likely to get a positive response versus just presenting a list of things you don't know. – dwizum Apr 10 '18 at 13:10

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