10

Four months ago I joined a company and began training on the back-end software systems. However, when I was assigned to a project, I was given the front-end work: JavaScript, CSS and HTML.

I feel like I'm wasting my time, since I am good at back-end programming. How can I figure out what to do or if I should just stick with this situation?

10

I think there are two basic options.

Ask your superior WHY you are being assigned to this instead of what you were trained for. This might or might not provide you with the answer you want but knowing the motives will clear up a lot of unneeded questions. You might think management would explain themselves better without being asked but that's often not the case.

or

Just put your head down and do it.

There are several reasons for this:

a. You will be learning something new. All the back end skill in the world is useless unless the entire package is what the user wants to use. This is your chance to actually get close to your users and I know some programmers who would die for the opportunity. It might be a little painful at first but seriously, it's not often that the company is "paying" you to learn something on the job.

b. Understanding why front end guys do the things they do will make you a better back end coder in the long run. You will never be able to understand their needs unless you have really been in their shoes.

c. It's good for promotions and moving up the career ladder if that is what you want. As a tech lead and project manager, I will almost always pick the one that has seen both sides to take a supervisory role if one is available. So don't restrict your own options this early in the game.

8

You should be excited by the opportunity to expand the scope of your knowledge and make your resume more attractive.

By all means, make sure your managers know what sort of development you prefer. Don't be shy about that. But realize that being on a project that doesn't match your own self-defined vision of yourself will help you in the long run on many levels. It will make you a better programmer because it will force you to stretch your mind. It will make you a better programmer in that it will give you understanding of other kinds of systems. It will make you a more employable developer as it will give you a broader range of experience on your resume.

The surest way to be unemployed in this field is to define what you do narrowly. You will almost certainly find that eventually no one needs that narrow thing you do.

Really, the only thing to be concerned about is the learning curve. Make sure your managers realize that you will start out less productive than those with experience on the front end. But you certainly aren't "wasting your time". Many people get stuck in the exact opposite state, never put on the hot new projects because they've been defined by their management in a very narrow way. You are better off then them.

  • Expanding his scope of knowledge? Gosh! lol – user272671 May 11 '14 at 9:00
3

Talk to your boss

This is very common in industry, you are hired for something and you are given a totally different task. This is nothing to frown upon unless you think it was done with bad intentions.

The fact is if you think front End work is not your cup of tea and you dont want to pursue this either because it is not of your interest or you think you might fail, the best way is perhaps to talk to you manager, describe it to him/her you might not be a great fit for this job. You can use you skills better as back end developer. There is nothing wrong with this approach. He'll be happy to work with you.

If you think this is something not fair, you are probably wrong. They believe in you and that's why they give you a task which you can do.


As a reference

  • I was once hired as a C++ programer, I never worked there in C++.
  • In my recent job, I was hired as web developer in ASP. But then there was a lot in PHP, MYSQL, SQL, Crystal Reports, XML, XSLT, Excel, VBA. To me it is just a nice change. The thing is all of it was programming related though.

I do understand your concern, front end is quite different from back end. I can see you can be worried because you can be a great developer but your front end skill are likely in the bottom. Do not punish yourself, talk to you manager, let him know this is not what you have expertise in. At least clear the confusion :)

2

I don't think anyone can truly figure this but yourself.

However, staying constructive is the most important thing to do. You could try and look at this as an opportunity to broaden your scope and competence. Speaking from the perspective of a consultant, I try to coach a lot of my junior associates to embrace these kinds of opportunities as an opportunity to break out of their role. In this particular instance, I find it a misconception that you are either a back-end or a front-end developer. You should strive be both before you choose to focus and specialize in one specific area.

If you still feel miserable in your current role and desperately want to move back to "back end" development, that is something to take up with whomever is in charge of this assignments. I would not phrase it as "I don't like working with this, I want to work with that" as that is a purely negative approach. Instead, try to come at it from an angle like:

"I'm working with this now, and it's really interesting and I'm learning a lot. However, I feel that my real passion and expertise is in this other area and I think that I could add a lot more value long-term by working with that instead. What would be the best way for us to transition me over there in the foreseeable future?"

0

Sounds a lot like my previous job... I was contracted to get a start on .NET and Flex projects and in the they put me working on LAMP/WAMP stacks (which is what the company eventually got into and dropped everything else). But in my case I was already familiar with those stacks whereas you will have to take on something new as a challenge.

I would say just go with what you've learned already because in the end, these languages/systems are just a tool to meet the end of a goal. As someone just coming out of a training program, you won't have much say in the company until you can produce some results. Leverage your back-end experience to work for Javascript, and learn a framework or two. You'd be surprised how complex the language can be. Also, you'd get a better understanding of how server-client interactions work.

Also, understand that the demands of a company may constantly change, as it was in my case. However, we cannot tell exactly from your question if this will be for one project only, or if the company wants to keep you in front-end for the long haul. If you are being compensated fairly, I wouldn't complain about it for now. Part of being a competent and reliable worker is to adapt to the dynamics of the company.

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