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For past 4-5 months I've been engaged in an independent project in my company. What I'm building is going to be used internally. 4 months ago, a senior architect (now a non-technical upper manager) started mentoring me unofficially, and soon I started directly reporting to him.

I'm working independently on a tool for internal use by the field engineers and support engineers. However as I'm the only person working on this, there are several cons:

  • The person I report to is the only one who suggests the solutions
  • The scope is not fixed - and changes as per my progress and the whims of this guy
  • Sometimes I feel kinda alone

I'll be taking a long break after two months - and have to finish this project by then. However for the past few days I feel I've been a little turned off by the idea of working on this project. Although there are people from other teams who might take me in temporarily (we've discussed this already), but my manager wants me to stick to this.

How can I convince this manager (with 20+ years experience) that I should take a break and maybe work with some other projects for a few days, and then resume working on this? Would it be a negative sign that I can't continue a project till the end?

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    How are other projects structured in your company? Is your situation, a one-man team reporting to person, a rare case? – user34587 Oct 17 '18 at 7:12
  • Oh should have mentioned company structure in the question. We're around 50 engineers in the US and 10 engineers in India office. I work from India. The teams and projects are loosely structured. However one-man team is a rare case. – Adie Oct 17 '18 at 7:16
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    what does working on another project for a few days get you, exactly? don't you have the weekend to relax? it is only 2 more months - 2 more years and i'd understand, but 2 months? – bharal Oct 17 '18 at 8:14
  • @bharal Good point. I just feel I'm bugged by his constant micromanagement and asking for updates three times a day. – Adie Oct 17 '18 at 8:34
  • Well, you can ask. Here is what I would do as manager: Approove, work on replacing you as troublemaker. You list a SHORT timeframe behind AND in the future and already are bored. Rahter put someone there who understands deadlines. And if you are bugged by being asked for updates 3 times per day - consider a career outside IT. Dailyscrum is absolute minimum, and in critical phases more than that is not unnormal. 3 times a day a project wide update 2 months before finish sounds convervative to me. – TomTom Oct 17 '18 at 8:56
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We've all been there - I've had projects that I'd gladly have dropped for a bit. Unfortunately that's not really how it works.

Presumably this project is being prompted by a business requirement - you mention it being for the field and support engineers and there being a deadline.

The scope is not fixed - and changes as per my progress and the whims of this guy

You mean.. just like every project ever?

Sometimes I feel kinda alone

Sometimes you'll work in a team and sometimes you'll be working on your own - it's okay to have a preference one way or the other but really you need to be capable of working in either scenario.

How can I convince this manager (with 20+ years experience) that I should take a break and maybe work with some other projects for a few days, and then resume working on this?

You've already spoken to you manager and they have already given you your answer:

my manager wants me to stick to this

You could keep pressing the issue but I really wouldn't recommend it. Your employer decides what tasks they want doing and this is communicated to the employees (usually via managers) and in return they pay you money. This is the very nature of being employed. Generally this doesn't mean "pick and choose what you want to do and when you want to do it" - that's what we call "holiday".

I'm not saying work can't be fun or interesting, and hey I'm all for it when feasible but it isn't always the case - sometimes you just have to work on things that you find boring.

Would it be a negative sign that I can't continue a project till the end?

Yes, undoubtably. If I were your manager and being diplomatic I'd use terms such as "unreliable", "flakey" and "entitled".

You expressed that you were keen to do this project initially, describing it as "exciting", if you can get bored this easily with a project you described that way I'd have serious doubts about your ability to stay the course with any project in the future. Consequently you'd actually get assigned the lions share of the drudge work because "exciting" projects tend to coincide with being quite important and the last thing you want to do is assign an important project to someone who has form for wanting out part way through.

  • Well said. For the manager, all alarm signs go red on an employee that appears entitled and not able to cope with responsibility and the pressure that comes with it. This is like the military - say no to a promotion, never get promoted. Say no to command, NEVER get command. The timeframes involved are jokingly smallish. – TomTom Oct 17 '18 at 8:58
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    I knew a guy would once said to their Team Leader a project wasn't interesting enough for them and wanted off. Ever since then, that person just ends up doing things either A) no one wants to do or B) is completely unimportant or uninteresting. Basically because no one will trust that person to do important work. – SaggingRufus Oct 17 '18 at 10:10
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    @SaggingRufus exactly.. it's nothing personal, but a manager wouldn't be doing their job if they didn't take appropriate measures to mitigate risks to important projects – motosubatsu Oct 17 '18 at 10:22
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    Quickly going from "this sounds exciting" to "this is boring" doesn't need to be a problem with the employee, it could just be that the project was sold as something it is not. – Erik Oct 17 '18 at 13:35
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I think there's two questions you should be asking in this situation, that would give you the best solution to your issue.

Should I ask for a break from this project?

Since you said 'but my manager wants me to stick to this' I get the idea that you already discussed this or that your manager has already made it clear you're not switching. I assume the project needs to be done before you leave. Since you're leaving on a long break in 2 months it doesn't seem very convenient for your manager to switch developers for this project. They'll need to put time into researching your work and getting into the project, which will possibly cost you extra time as well. There's no advantage for your manager, the project or coworkers here.

And frankly I don't think there's a real advantage for you either. Working on the same project for a long time, especially alone, can be a drag. But there's only 2 months left and you have a break waiting. My advise would be to sit it out but let your manager know you would like to move on to a group project next. You will have to do boring projects at some point in your career and I'm sure this won't be the last.

How should I talk to my manager about not wanting to do this project anymore?

Try to get a one on one with your manager before your break and have him know you would prefer a group project next. Let him know you talked with other teams and maybe describe which team you feel could use your skills. You can also mention that you can improve your skills by working in a team setting.

I think it's a good idea to have a quick meeting before you leave anyway, to discus what you'll do after the break and to give him time to think about what project he wants to put you on next. This gives you the perfect opportunity to say what your preference for a next project will be.

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I'm the only person working on this

This should tell you that you're the only person working on a project that has a deadline of two months remaining. I feel like wanting time off the project will just set you behind and cause issues for you in the future. You're taking a long break after the two months so in my opinion you should stick with the project and just get it done.

The scope is not fixed

You'd be very lucky to ever get a project that doesn't change during the development of the system. This is why companies opt for DevOps approaches and agile development.

It's clear that the company needs this system for internal use and that your manager wants you to continue so it would probably be best to continue to avoid problems.

That being said

There are people from other teams who might take me in temporarily

If you can turn that might into a definitely, then you may be able to arrange something with your manager. Just ask them for a 1x1 and tell them the issues you're having with the project and why you want to take a break. I suggest you suggest a time period that you want off which doesn't put the project too far behind but allows you time to have a break from it.

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Would it be a negative sign that I can't continue a project till the end?

Yes, it would be a very negative sign that just because you "are a little turned off" you can't finish the project. Particularly when you already know what your manager expects from you. You don't want to come across as someone who cannot meet their commitments - particularly for such a short project.

Finish the project first, then ask for something to do that interests you more.

Best case, you finish the project that your manager wants you to finish and you get to work on a more interesting project for a little while before your long break.

Worst case, you work for two more months on something that doesn't excite you as much, take a long break, then come back refreshed to start on a more interesting project.

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