Edit: this is a not a simple death-march question, because it involves newcomers to an organization and on-boarding. There is an urgent project involved and there is a question about frank feedback, but the project has not yet reached burn-out, overtime, undisciplined software engineering and other characteristics of a death-march.

I recently joined a large enterprise as a senior software developer (I know that readers may not be software devs, so I've not mentioned much tech below). In the interview, I was well-spoken and confident. However, I can get quite anxious if not given the "on-boarding experience" that I would give to others.

(By that, I mean that I would expect a senior dev to know tools of the trade, but not the specifics of the organization. I would pair a newcomer with a designated mentor for a few days, and spend a few hours at a whiteboard for an intro Q&A session. Perhaps this verges on "hand holding" but I argue that it is simply compassionate.)

My first week was last week. Everyone is busy for a deadline. There is no mentor, no Q&A. I was given a document to setup software tools. There are snags, and I'm stuck. I have found other devs and have asked them via email. They are friendly but do not offer to come to my desk and help me for a few minutes. I'm getting quite anxious and nervous, to the point of losing sleep and going into work super-early to atone.

On day 4, I was assigned to a new project that has an "aggressive schedule". The small team of developers are all new. I asked for an experienced contact (for questions) and was told there are no resources available. The dept director also said "let me know ASAP if this project starts to go off the rails". My inner voice noted that it is already off the rails. However, I stayed positive and said we would try our best. But I feel sick. (I had explicitly asked in the interview if the team was open to people asking questions, as I know I need that environment to thrive.)

Do I mention my concerns to my manager, ASAP? Is it professional to state concern for (a) the project schedule (b) my productivity? Is it reasonable for a senior member of a team to have a mentor/contact for the practices of the organization? (I'm assuming I can't disclose my anxiety and freak-out factor, or that I could use some initial hand-holding).

  • 6
    You seem to be panicking over a lack on instruction regarding "how things are done here." Given that you're a senior dev, are you sure they aren't expecting you to decide how things "should be done" in this project?
    – Steve-O
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 23:36
  • 1
    It's a good point, but this place is very restrictive/regimented about certain aspects. e.g. Installing software on a local computer. Deploying software into test environment. etc. There is no wiggle room there, and yet I haven't heard anything on these fronts. Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 0:12
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of How do you figure out if you're on a Death March?
    – gnat
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 6:09
  • Why haven't you addressed your lack of experience with the way things are run when you were assigned this new project? You should be pointing out that you have a ramp-up period and then identifying the resources or help you need to get up to speed. While it would be nice if your manager did that for you, it's something you can do as well. Do you not feel comfortable doing that? And where are these strange word choices coming from? Compassion and atonement are not words I expected to see here... Was that just lost in translation?
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 7:43
  • 2
    What you are describing (time with experienced folks to ask questions, get onboarded, etc) is NOT "hand-holding". Don't call it that because then the next word people will start to think is "help-vampire". It is totally appropriate to assertively ask for a senior person to spend time with you to answer your questions. They and you will regret it if things go to hell because of a simple lack of tribal knowledge.
    – teego1967
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 13:24

3 Answers 3


Yes, you should raise your concerns with your manager.

No matter how senior a developer is, it's completely unrealistic to expect the same productivity from a new ployee as from one who worked with the tools for a year and knows the processes. And especially so if said new employee isn't given the slightest amount of on-boarding introduction.

Don't argue from your point of view, though. Assume the POV of the company.

  • If this company has some certificate concerning quality management (as many big companies are wont to adorn themselves with), there should be a process and a plan to break in new employees. Ignoring this plan and learning everything on your own wastes the time and money of the company because it's less efficient.

  • Same problem with asking questions. You could research the solution to a problem for several hours or ask a colleague and be able to progress your work within 10 minutes. If your team is not available due to deadlines, your manager should assign someone from another team to help you.

  • Assigning you to a project with a tight schedule is a risk to the project and the company. Request a seasoned developer to be assigned in parallel to minimize the risk to the company.

  • (Personal oppinion, please don't quote in your argument) If the company cannot spare more resources, the project cannot be that important. Don't punish yourself (or "atone") for the mistakes of the company, they are not your own. You can only atone for your own mistakes, unless you are Jesus ;)

  • Tell your manager honestly that you don't think the schedule is realistic. In your experience as senior developer projects with a newly employed team lead have a tendency to take longer. You're not familiar with the development process in this company yet and delayes have to be expected and calculated into the schedule.

  • If your manager gives you grief, you can call to mind that you were promised a company culture open to questions in your job interview. You did your job by requesting an environment where you could learn most efficiently, now it's the managers responsability to provide what they promised.


My inner voice noted that it is already off the rails.

Then this is/was definitely the time to voice that concern. You have legitimate concerns about delivery of the project from the outset, you don't need to feel bad about raising those with the key stakeholders - my advice is to go do so as soon as possible. That's partly your job as a senior, after all.

Now of course, it could be that you raise these concerns and it turns out the project is not as complex as you anticipate for X, Y or Z reasons. That's fine, nobody is going to call you out on raising a concern which turns out to be unfounded (especially not this early into a new role with a new team). Generally people would rather you ask the question early and get a simple answer than not ask it until it's too late.

Go speak with the key stakeholders as soon as possible, highlight your concerns and also have a plan to offset your concerns (it sounds like one possible solution may be that they swap an experienced dev on a different project with one of your new devs, at least for a few weeks, until everyone is up to speed).

If they ignore your concerns and the project is late, then that's not on you (and they shouldn't hold it against you, so long as you don't "I told you so" them about it - they likely had a business rationale behind ignoring your concerns, perhaps another project had priority). If they ignore your concerns and somehow the project is delivered on time, that's great, they're not going to chastise you for worrying about delivery, they'd rather have that than someone who is perceived to not care! However, if you fail to raise your concerns and the project goes down, they plausibly can/will ask why you never said anything.


Most good companies have documented processes. This may not be the case with some smaller startup companies that may not yet have many processes in place. You mentioned that the company appeared to be very regimented which implies to me that it is highly process driven, and as such I would expect it to be well documented. No doubt some sort of induction should have taken place so you are fully aware of your workplace conditions and more importantly who's who in the zoo.

Do not be afraid to ask questions and seek guidance from your superiors. That's what they are there for. Pointless having a manager if she / she doesn't manage. However in the same vein your roles and responsibilities should have been spelt out at the job application / interview stage where it might have been made clear if you are expected to show initiative and autonomy in your day to day work.

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