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Last year in July, I started working for my current employer, a software firm with ±250 employees worldwide (just to get the picture). We are working on a client-server based software product, and I started working as a support engineer for the serverside department. Although I didn't program anything (I was just receiving problem tickets and tackling them), I was really excited by the task and I did it really well: during my performance review my team manager gave me a better rating than I gave myself :-)

Shortly after that performance review, my second line manager (there are three levels of managers) proposed me to change to another department, where more mathematical skills are needed, it seems to be very difficult to find persons who have deep mathematical and software skills, and I have both of them. In top of that, I really like mathematics and in the back of my head I had already been dreaming to change to that department, but only once I worked here for several years. So, that proposal came as a very pleasant surprise: I could again combine software development and mathematics, the two things I love to do, so I said "YES!" to the proposal.

Now we are two months and lots of disappointments further:
The software in this department is an ununderstandable mess: it's based on namespaces and templates, which is turning debugging into a real nightmare (this morning, while debugging, I stumbled upon a type definition of 8036(!) characters in the watch-window). I've already seen 11 (!) subsequent typecastings from one template to another. Some pieces of source code are automatically generated, leading to enormous lines of source code, the biggest I've seen was 17980(!) characters long, ...
Within the department, there are two software people (me and my direct manager, the others are mathematicians who have no idea about software engineering and who just believe what a programmer tells them (and I don't blame them for that)), and my direct manager (who has written a big part of the source code), is a person who loves to read about and try new things (from the moment a new feature is released, he finds a way to implement it in source code, completely neglecting stability issues). As I have a past experience of functional testing and support, my first priority is to deliver a stable product to the (several hundreds of) customers.

As far as the mathematics are concerned: although this is was had lead me to this department, even after two months I've done nothing with it, I don't have the slightest ideas what those mathematicians are actually doing, just to give you an idea:
Two weeks ago I was again being stuck in the software mess, and my neighbour (one of the mathematicians) said he had a problem. For me that was a big relief: finally I could get acquainted with the mathematics they were using here and I could find some motivation to do my job again, so I said to him "What's wrong? Can I help you?", on which my direct manager immediately answered "Dominique, there are more urgent things to work on", and not even a minute later, he said "You are working on those urgent things, aren't you?".
=> Who the ... does he think he is? I hate being patronised like this!

I know, you might say "But don't you talk to your direct manager then?", but that's the point:

  1. I don't get anything done here (really nothing), so why would he listen to an employee who has nothing to show for?
  2. We have complete different characters, which can lead to two possible situations:

    2.1. We talk about our differences and learn from each other.

    2.2. We drift away and start disliking each other.

=> It's the second one.

As you can see, my current task is an enormous disappointment, and I need to get out of it: every morning I'm dragging myself out of my bed to get here, two days ago I started getting sedative feelings in some of my fingers (which is a sign of my body that my stress level is getting too high, I have a past of emotional and psychological issues).

Is it possible to return to my previous department? Well: four persons are involved:

  1. My current direct manager. I don't care for him, but I'd like to avoid giving the opportunity to harm me.
  2. My second level manager (which is the same as the one from the previous department): when he proposed me to change department, he clearly confirmed that in case the new task would not suit me, I could go back to my previous task.
  3. The CTO (Chief Technical Officer): I've told him (about a month ago) that the new job is a challenge, now I will need to tell him it's not just a challenge, it's a disaster, but I don't like bringing bad news to one of the bosses of the company (the company is led by three brothers, the CTO being one of them).
  4. My previous direct manager. When he heard about my leaving for that other department, he tried to stop me (but I didn't understand his advise at that moment, now I do). I believe he would like to have me back (but how well can you know your direct manager after only six months, in a department of ±20 people?).

Does anybody have an idea how to tackle this? Don't forget, there is also the personal aspect: when I leave from here, I'll probably never be using mathematics in my career anymore, while it's something I really love to do.

About the "burnout" and "depression" tags: I'm not there yet, but if I don't get better work-related news within short notice, I might fall into the trap (I have a general bad personal feeling about myself and I need a good feeling about my job in order not to drop into a depression).

  • You may want to clarify: Are you literally asking how you should try to make the transfer? Or are you asking us if we think you should make the transfer? Or something else? Also, your post is really long, and has a lot of details that aren't directly relevant. You may get more interest if you edit out some of the specific details about the errors you're seeing in the software, etc. – dwizum Apr 13 '18 at 13:56
  • Don't be depressed about the mathematics thing, you can't predict where your career will go, it is not impossible that you will find your way back to math in another job. – HLGEM Apr 13 '18 at 13:58
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Is it possible to return to my previous department?

We can't really answer that, but it seems like you had an indication of the answer yourself when you said,

when he proposed me to change department, he clearly confirmed that in case the new task would not suit me, I could go back to my previous task

I think the better question is,

Does anybody have an idea how to tackle this?

Your second-line manager left the door open when he said to you the line I quoted above. The way to tackle this seems straightforward: talk to the second line manager, remind him of what he said, and explain that you'd like to consider making the move back. Based on the info you've given us, it sounds like he is the best person to initiate the conversation with.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of factors that make it hard to answer your question: The way to tackle this is likely dependent on company culture and/or policy. Some things you may want to consider (if you can answer these, we can incorporate the answers into our answers):

  1. How fluid is the workforce in terms of switching positions? Do managers generally have no problem with departmental transfers, or is it looked poorly upon?
  2. Is there an official probation period or any other policy that constrains moves?
  3. Do you need to include HR in these discussions?
  4. Do you need to follow an official process of applying for the role?
  • Thanks for the quick reply, let me give you some answers on the questions: 1) I don't know about any other persons who have switched positions (I only work here for ±9 months). 2) No probation period. 3) HR was not involved in the transfer, so I don't know if I need to contact them for transferring back. 4) As far as I know, there is no official procedure. – Dominique Apr 13 '18 at 14:02

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