I'm recently promoted in a Canadian engineering company to a "senior engineer", which was very exciting for me (my company just has 2 levels of engineer, "engineer", and "senior engineer"), and received a large pay increase. This has started to become a bad thing for me though.

Even though I get a lot more money, I'm expected to "keep current" by reading journal articles on a daily basis, read books on new/emerging technologies and programming languages (nearly 400 pages of reading per month). I haven't had to do this much reading since my college degree, and I don't know how anyone can be expected to do this at the same time as a full time job. The other senior engineers seem capable of it, but I doubt they have time for a social life. Also, english is their first language, so its easier for them. Just for example, I have 6 months to read 5 books on C++11, C++14/17, protocol buffers, and Agile. Each book is about 500 pages. That's 3000 pages of study material in 6 months. I'm allowed to spend time at the office reading, but there's so much that I will have to spend hours of spare/free time studying after work and on weekends.

How can I ask my boss to relax this requirement? I'm proud of being promoted, but I thought it was because of my programming skills and speed. I'd rather code 100% of the time rather than code 50% and research 50%.

Thank you all.

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    It is a bad idea to accept a promotion into a new position without understanding and accepting its requirements. Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 13:02
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    @A.I.Breveleri I was told I have to develop and learn. I didn't think it would be like returning to college full time. One of the other senior engineers boasts that this is easy, but I think he's just showing off (and it's easier for him since english is his first language).
    – Kumar
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 13:03
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    Maybe you should ask your colleague how he manages it (you'll likely find out that your colleague doesn't read it all, and maybe just skims large parts to find the interesting bits). Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 13:06
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    I think it's great that you get paid and get time in the office to refresh and update your skills. I do that in my spare time. If you have to read several books on the same topic (C++) you will quickly find out that the books overlap and you can skip pages or whole chapters. Learn to distinguish between important and not so important parts and skip pages/chapters.
    – gdir
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 14:12
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    Each book is about 500 pages. That's 3000 pages of study material in 6 months. Am I the only one who never finish reading any whole book ever in my 8 years of career in software engineer? The purpose is to let you learn what's needed for your job, not memorizing every single word on the books. Have you ever asked for the code base or some sample code that you are going to maintain/work on in the new position?
    – tweray
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 19:31

4 Answers 4


More senior positions that come with significantly increased pay require more work.

In other news: snow is cold, and the Pope is Catholic.

That said I think right now you've got a skewed level of study - there's a certain amount that is going to be due to you having to catch up to the other seniors on the learning curve. I'd expect over time this will ease somewhat.

Additionally it's not that much reading really - you've got more than a month to read each book.

How can I ask my boss to relax this requirement? I'm proud of being promoted, but I thought it was because of my programming skills and speed. I'd rather code 100% of the time rather than code 50% and research 50%.

If it really isn't for you then you may be able to ask for your boss to return you to your previous position (assuming it hasn't been filled) - and there's nothing wrong with that if it's your preference. Work-Life balance is incredibly important to some people (myself included) and there's nothing wrong with saying "I'm happy to be at this level", it's much more important to be happy in your life than to be ticking boxes on some arbitrary career scorecard. Of course if you do step back to "Engineer" rather than "Senior Engineer" I'd expect your pay to revert along with the title and responsibilities but that's the trade off.

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    I think the workload is being overestimated, for one. Think about 3000 pages of material: The average textbook chapter is about 30-50 pages. The goal is to grasp the material enough that you understand it. We know that mastery takes repetition and diligence, but it doesn't seem like OP is being evaluated. Correct me if I'm wrong. So that's 60-100 chapters of material, and you have 24 weeks. Tell me you can't slosh through 3-5 chapters a week by just putting in an hour or two here and there. College was harder.
    – CKM
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 21:45
  • @CKM But college also had more free time! 12-18 hours of class a week, not 40+ hours of work!
    – user1602
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 13:00
  • @Kyralessa Everyone's mileage will vary. I worked 40-50hr weeks and did full-time classes in college, it was very hard. But, I think a significant issue in certain areas of the workforce is people leave college with a shiny degree, and they don't know what a year of full-time work feels like. A lot more programs are incorporating internships, now, for example. It's a real problem to tackle.
    – CKM
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 16:58
  • @Kyralessa-Not sure what kind of school you went to but most good schools recommend a minimum of 3 hours per credit of studying outside of class. At 12 hours that 48 hours per week. At 15 (more normal) that's 60 hours. At 18 you are at 72 hours.
    – Dunk
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 0:39

Direct answer to your question first:

How can I ask my boss to relax this requirement?

Option A: You can mention to your boss casually that it's giving you some hard time doing so since English is not your first language, but the excuse only work for a period. If you want to keep the position (and it's pay-level), you got to prove yourself fit it.

Option B: Or, if you have decided on this, you can ask to return to your previous position, which may leave a bitter taste if it is your boss who intend to promote you. And It may leave a unmotivated image to your boss and your HR, which may or may not affect your future career inside this company.

I personally won't suggest either, and here why (besides what I mentioned above), and what I suggest to do:

First of all, highly skilled programmers are harder to replace, so besides the payrise you get, you are also securing a more stable position for yourself inside this company, not mentioning that you get more leverage when switching jobs.

Secondly, you might be only serving a beginner's gap. "Keep current" isn't some extreme request for developers nowadays considering how fast technology is evolving (in fact I would argue C++ is on the slower side), it all depends on the level of requirement of your company. From the list you provided in question (C++11, C++14/17, protocol buffers, and Agile). All the books seems to be more like a bump for a new-comer rather than some continuous task. There's no five new versions of C++ every year, protocol buffers are very low level and basic technology, and Agile, well, despite it's been wrongly used somewhere in the industry, is still some good soft skill that stay with you forever.

I would suggest you to seek for help from colleague who's been in this position for a couple of years and ask for their readlist. I could expect that your reading material will be much on leisure and informative-only side after you been through your 6 months gap. After all, you seems to be on early time of your career, all the books you listed doesn't seems be something you just learn and forget, they are going to be in your armory as long as you are staying inside the same industry.

And of course, if reading is not your cup of tea, as long as your company doesn't require you to write some reading report something, you can always talk to your boss about different kind of training to get through your gap.

Hey boss, I know the new position need me to be familiar with C++14/17, I found a good course online just about C++14/17 by [Name of some MVP], you know English is not my first language and it's much easier for me to watch a video tutorial, do you mind if it take it?


Hey boss, there's a small workshop about Agile in the town, can I attend?

Will leave much better image for you, and also help you learn in a way you prefer.

And after all, if you still decided that learning is not what you wanted in this job, or the weight put on you for this position is too much, shuffle your resume, and hunt for a job/company that's better suit for you. You still hold the job (either your old position or the new one) so you still have leverage, take advantage of it. There are company with good culture that allows you to learn your work-clock, you might want to look for this kind of companies.

But please keep this in mind:

In IT industry, motivated company prefer motivated developers, and unmotivated company disappears faster.

Generally speaking, you may probably have to keep yourself "current" more or less as long as you still want to work inside the IT industry, it's just about how much energy you have to put on it. I understood that people have preferences on work/personal life, but the situation "code 100% of the time" won't really last long under most circumstances.

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    Good suggestion to try other ways of keeping up. I'd also suggest conferences, which are a good way of finding out about the latest development and get an overview.
    – bytepusher
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 22:53
  • Yup; training courses. now, those I have seen (+1) - but never the requirement to read so much
    – Mawg
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 9:01

In my current position as a Senior Civil Engineer, I've a target goal of 35 billable hours per work week. This is necessary because like you, I have similar intense education requirements and other non-billable work. I'm expected to pursue a new certification, gain proficiency in an advanced CAD program, assist with proposal development, etc. Some weeks I'm able to get those 35 hours in, others I'm not. The overall average, though, is what's important.

You may have similar requirements. I would recommend reviewing any resources that could clarify that for you (i.e. promotion paperwork, company policies, directly asking your manager, etc.)


Senior Engineer tends to be more mid-level at most companies (at least every company I've worked at), but since your company only has two levels then that means you are at the top of the title ladder. What is expected of most engineers at the top is exactly what your initial statement said: "Keep Current".

That doesn't mean read a gazillion articles/books with no particular purpose so you have a wide skill set and can talk about all the books you've read. It means, you should keep abreast of new technologies that are out there that might have applicability to your company's products or provide solutions to some of your company's particular engineering problems. You then do enough research to determine if a particular technology can actually benefit the company. Once convinced that the technology is promising then you do enough so you can present a convincing case to everyone else and get them to agree that using this new-fangled technology you learned about will provide great benefit to the company.

If the top tier engineers at a company are not going to be the ones bringing in the innovative technological solutions to the company then who will?

If you know a better way of doing research to know what possible solutions exist and how you might be able to apply them to your company's benefit without reading then please share. Although, YouTube is fast-becoming a pretty good, but not quite good-enough alternative.

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