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Like about a week ago my boss assigned me to a task, which to me feels way to big/complicated for me considering my minimal skills and lack of experience so far (I just graduated my bachelors degree in software engineering last fall, no work experience aside from some internships).

How can I politly communicate that this might be to much for me alone and/or that if I am supposed to do it by myself I need a lot more time? I don't want to sound lazy or make it seem like I just don't want to do it. That's not the case. But half of the specifications is pretty much hieroglyphs to me and another big chunk of what I understand are things I've not used yet or not learned.

My boss was on a trip the whole week, so I was not able to communicate with him (business trips usually call for 8-10h nonstop work at the clients workplace - very very busy) and wants to meet tomorrow for a little update meeting. However I haven't really started programming aside from the small amount of work I was able to understand and start.

  • @Fattie: You may have the ability to instantly plan out an assignment with a code base you aren't familiar with it and give out an estimate, but not everyone has that ability. After forty years in the field, I still find that some tasks are a lot easier than they look and some are a lot harder. – David Thornley Jan 31 at 19:22
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Be as honest as you can as soon as you can. Getting overwhelmed by your first project is to be expected (and your boss should have expected this and given you more of a ramp-up, but I guess he was busy).

Talk to him.

Thanks for giving me this workstream. Would it be possible to talk through the requirements on this, I'm afraid I don't really understand them and I think I might be overcomplicating what's needed to complete this task.

The odds are that the task you have is well within your capabilities, but the language/depth of the requirements are just unintelligible and need some translation into something you can understand.

Before your meeting, try to understand what you can about the work-items and replay these assumptions to him - you don't really want to give the impression you've only stared at the screen for a week.

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Be prepared ;)

It may sound like a joke, but it is not. What it feels and what it is in objective reality are two different things.

The boss wants to know if you can do the job and how he can help. So make a good analysis of what you have to do. Estimate the time needed for you to do each detail. Make a list of trainings you need to perform some tasks better. Understand for which areas you need coaching, and ask for a coach.

In other words, present your boss a list of problems. Ideally, also present a list of possible solutions for each problem.

Do not overestimate yourself, especially since you do not have much experience.

Do not be afraid, and do not forget to still be polite and professional.

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