I am currently working as a SharePoint consultant/web developer guy. I have been doing my job for 5 years now and I am starting to gain ground on frameworks and technologies. My boss, however, doesn't seem to know what we actually do.

She now wants to send me to an external company to do a 6-month contract. I am expected to take part in a project that uses VB.NET and WinForms. I have zero experience in VB.NET and only very little with WinForms.

Now I don't know if I should tell her that I am very poorly suited for the position or just suck it up and learn as I work for the company.

What do you guys think? Is it expected from developers to learn a completely new programming language and framework on that short notice?

EDIT: We currently have a lot of stress at our company right now because we are finally starting to do things SCRUM and need to do a lot of adapting and my boss just accepted a contract herself from another company where she will work 5 days per week (I think she did this so she can escape all the stress herself). So I will not see her very often, if at all. I am just so frustrated with the lack of communication, I also suffer from a pretty moderate bout of depression so this whole thing is starting to really tug at my nerves.

  • Yeah, she always does things like these. It's not the first time I supposedly was able to do something I had absolutely no experience in (at least not beyond the point of modifying a couple of boilerplate code from a template or something). Things are also fairly strained at the moment so my boss got herself an external contract for 5 days/week so I won't see her for quite some time. – LeonidasFett Oct 9 '18 at 15:36
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    VB.net? Run away while you still can... ;) – ThiefMaster Oct 9 '18 at 20:21
  • Its certainly not unusual to have to learn new languages for new jobs. That's why fundamentals are so important. – GrandmasterB Oct 9 '18 at 20:26
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    @ThiefMaster VB.Net is .Net. The difference between VB.Net and C# is some syntactic sugar. – DaveG Oct 9 '18 at 20:46
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    @DaveG - You know that, and I know that. However, people who hire developers still have a "stigma" attached to VB.NET. It's not right, but it's there. – Wesley Long Oct 9 '18 at 21:12

Now I don't know if I should tell her that I am very poorly suited for the position or just suck it up and learn as I work for the company.

Rather than assert that you are poorly suited for the position, I would have a conversation with your boss to discuss the reasons for your assignment. Mention that you are concerned because of your lack of experience with the required technologies. Note that this could be a risk to successful project completion.

Part of contractor/consultant work is flexibility in the type of work you do. Sometimes you do have to learn completely new things, but it's important that there's transparency between parties in terms of expectations.

That said, sometimes it's not in your best interest to work on unpopular or obsolete technology, because you lose the chance to develop more marketable skills. WinForms and VB.NET could arguably be put in that category. Contractors are not often in the position to refuse assignments however, so it could be that you need to be prepared to leave to avoid such work.

Some companies will bring on contractors with no experience simply because there's no one else to do the work -- in these cases the company should be prepared for the contractor to take time to get up to speed.

You want to have a conversation to make sure that transparency exists, that your boss is setting correct expectations on your behalf with the external company. Be clear that there is a reputational/financial risk otherwise.


Do you want to learn VB and WinForms?

A problem there is VB and WinForms is dated. WPF and C# is a better skill (in my opinion). Also if you are a web developer it is more HTML like.

I would say (or write if you can' meet face to face) something like

I don't know VB or Winforms. I will take me a month just to get to a working level and months to master. Are sure this is what you want to do?

You have laid it out and left it at her decision. If you are not productive the first month you have warned her.

  • put the warning in writing too just in case you get thrown under the bus later. – Borgh Oct 10 '18 at 7:52
  • If the OP works with SharePoint, I'm not thinking they share your concerns with the stack being "dated" that someone who already works in a newer stack might have. – enderland Oct 10 '18 at 11:11
  • @ElysianFields If you want to learn old stacks have at it. – paparazzo Oct 10 '18 at 11:14

Have a chat with her. Tell her you have concerns due to your lack of knowledge, and

  1. you would recommend someone else takes on the role
  2. are looking forward to get your hands dirty, as long as everyone understands you don't have much experience in that domain, and that is communicated to other team members or stakeholders as appropriate.

If you go for (1) you might be told to do it regardless because of (a million reasons). And since you might be told to do it regardless, it's a good idea to not be prematurely negative about it. At the end, document your talk with something like

Hello Boss,

As we discussed earlier I'm looking forward to start on Project as this is a great opportunity for me to learn $technology. Thank you for assigning me to this, and look forward to our feedback session in whenever.

I only recommend this because you don't seem to trust her, but of course you know best.

Then, I would also mention the lack of experience to your new team members. You said you're doing Scrum so it's a good way of setting expectations to ensure you get as much as you can handle.

If, on the other hand, you don't want to waste your time with VB.NET and WinForms, you should start to quietly look for another job, as you will be required to pick up the slack when your company has no other resources to allocate. This is why you were assigned to this in the first place, so it'll happen from time to time.

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