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I was recruited to a senior (but still individual contributor, not a manager) role to a company as a "subject matter expert" (SME), to take on an advisory / strategic / architectural overview and overall "go-to person" sort of role ('Tech Lead' but across teams) with a number of in-flight projects the company is working on which I would be the "lead" for (and give input to), and others in the future. The idea was that I would take the overall view of everyone in the company currently working with this technology and be able to advise them and come up with new initiatives etc.

But upon starting ~3 months ago I've given brief architectural input to a particular project and now been "hijacked" into being a team member of that project team full time to work on what I would see as 'junior' level responsibilities based on the technology/accountability/autonomy involved. I am now part of a "scrum" team that has daily get-togethers about "what I did yesterday" etc. The stuff I'm doing is let's say a 2/10 level of complexity compared to what I'm actually able to do (and what I thought I was being recruited for).

This project will last at least 6 months and probably much longer based on the project plan and my realistic assessment of things.

There are a number of senior-type things that come up (e.g. client wants X -- what approach should we take?) which I "should" be responsible for, but my project manager has blocked me from working on those as I am full time on his project. So now other people are handling those things which should be my role.

There have already been some emails / support tickets / etc about things I "should" handle but they went to my boss or others because I was 'ringfenced'. (the PM asked if there was "anyone else" who could handle it because I'm F/T for him).

I'm concerned that I will be seen by others in the company as a 'junior developer' and any time in the future that I work on actual tasks I was hired for as being like "oh well done, you are branching out" etc (which isn't the case, it's what I was hired for and am already capable of!). And so -- that my input won't have the 'weight' it should have, or more generally once people perceive me as the 'junior C# developer' how I can recover from that.

I need to know how to approach this situation (placed in 'junior' role relative to my expertise) and how to establish myself as the 'Senior' person in spite of this.


ETA: I don't think it's a "bait and switch" it seems like more emergent needs. I am getting the senior level salary so can't complain about that, but it's like if someone recruited a "master carpenter" and then asked them to "cut through each of these 3,000 pieces of wood on the line that's already made for you and you can't question it" for example.

I realize there are going to be "mundane" or "lower level than what I'm capable of" aspects in pretty much any role, and I don't expect to be doing intellectually taxing work 100% of the time (and that probably isn't desirable anyway!) but I am talking about a situation where I'm not doing that work at all due to being ringfenced onto a project as, essentially, a junior coder.

My expectation, although maybe I'm being unrealistic about it?, is that as a "senior technical person" I could be asked to do something like "Jane has called in sick and she was supposed to be implementing this feature for the Big Deadline, could you fill in?" rather than doing Jane's role full time. Jane's role is what I was doing about 15 years ago!

Btw, I don't want any of this to sound like I "look down on" junior developers in any way, which I definitely don't! But we are normally on a path of progression and today's junior developer is 'me' 15 years ago :)

  • 1
    Have you raised this with your manager? This should be the first port of call. It's normal to have to do more "menial" tasks in the day to day job than you consider you were hired for, but if you're being shut out of the strategic decisions and senior overview you were promised, you should be able to challenge them that you're not getting what you were promised. – berry120 Feb 20 at 22:38
  • @berry120 I understand that I wouldn't be working at 100% "senior" level stuff all the time (added some text to clarify this) but yes I am being shut out of strategic decisions etc because I'm full time on the "junior" project and don't have the free time for that. – user100220 Feb 20 at 22:42
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    That all makes sense - have you raised it with your manager and if so, what was the response? – berry120 Feb 20 at 23:38
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    Surely the only solution is (1) tell them your demands (2) if you don't get it, leave. Unfortunately .. what else??? – Fattie Feb 21 at 1:08
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    @berry120 I have raised it as part of general discussions (121s) and my manager is as frustrated with the situation as I am. – user100220 Feb 22 at 19:49
9

In 1988, I hired into a certain large defense firm in a very similar capacity. Three weeks in, they pulled a similar reorganization. It took eight years to start to recover. Because of some other things that happened, I never really did.

Your first step is to go up the ladder, ABOVE your current Program Manager, and discuss your concerns with HIS manager. You tell him that you understand the need, you're willing to pitch in, but you are VERY concerned about the potential long-term impact to BOTH your career AND to the company at large.

You expand on that second point. They didn't hire you to be a junior coder on steroids. They hired you to be a subject matter expert and "go-to guy". They still have that need, and their/your Program Manager has just sabotaged their attempt to fill it. (You say it a bit more nicely than that, but you SAY IT.)

Realistically, you probably aren't going to get much traction. Stunts like this only happen in places where the Program Manager has a lot of pull, and the program is seen as critically important.

Which is why you do a good job, dust off the resume, and resume your job search. You are probably going to have to bail out of there, and you should be prepared to do it as soon as possible.

  • Which is why you do a good job, dust off the resume, and resume your job search As it stands currently I don't have much in the way of "senior" level achievements at this position to put on a resume. (The role itself is a step up from what I was doing previously, which was a de facto 'tech lead' but within a much narrower area.) Would you recommend starting the search now, (and would I explain the situation?) or complete the project whenever that might be and take up my 'real' role first? – user100220 Feb 22 at 19:54
  • 'Doing a good job' on the current project is pretty much implementing the requirements as already defined for us (there are several 'coders' on the team) albeit I'm able to complete them much more efficiently than a genuine 'junior C# developer' as one would expect. (I haven't lost sight of the technical details despite taking a bigger picture view!) – user100220 Feb 22 at 19:58
  • Why the insistence on skipping up the management chain? In my experience, that almost never goes well for anyone unless it's carefully orchestrated. – dwizum Feb 22 at 21:04
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    @user100220 If you have only been there a short time, like less than 3 to 6 months, you can solve the resume problem by not putting this job on your resume. – Joe Mar 15 at 10:50
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    @John R. Strohm That is patently false. Leaving jobs off of your resume is something you should not only should do but is often necessary to write a good, focused resume. There are at least 5 jobs that I have had that I don't list because they're not relevant to my career, or because they're no longer useful for demonstrating the value I bring to a current or future employer. – Joe Mar 15 at 14:21
0

You can't waste most of a year in a position so much lower than what you were hired for, user100220. You either need to get out from under the project manager entirely, or get another job pronto, before you get permanently demoted. Sorry about you landing in this situation :-(

  • Any suggestions for how I could "get out from under that PM" please? – user100220 Feb 22 at 20:01
  • You probably haven't been there long enough to develop good relationships with other PMs, unfortunately. You can try to keep your ear to the ground and see whether anyone else would be looking for a new team member, and approach them directly (if you think they can be discreet about it). Or more to the point, is this PM your manager? If not, go talk to them directly about your concerns, and do use the term 'hijacked', that's very clear. But present the situation mostly as a waste of company money/resources to use you for trivial work, so they care more :-) – user90842 Feb 22 at 20:06
  • no, the PM and my manager are different people (and they don't have the same mutual manager, either!) You're right that I haven't been there long enough to cultivate those relationships. Although I don't think that's just a matter of time (though that is a factor) but also that nebulous word 'exposure' -- I was supposed to be working cross-teams and so would have worked with many more people as someone who was "parachuted in" to a particular problem / scenario / new (to the company) business need, but that hasn't happened due to being as you acknowledge "hijacked". – user100220 Feb 22 at 20:15
  • a waste of company money/resources Do you see a risk in being laid off and replaced with a genuine junior coder? – user100220 Feb 22 at 20:24
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    @user100220 my worry wouldn't be risking being laid off, but actually becoming a junior coder, at least in the eyes of your current employer (and maybe future ones as well). If you accept this situation and play along you're getting your career into regression. – Yury Mar 15 at 9:54
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I know this is technically not a leadership role, but leadership roles are respected.

Start being pro-active. Work on skills transfer, or hiring someone else for this role.

Be sure you are active and present in every meeting your manager attends, and some that he does not.

Offer to attend some of these meetings if you are being left out.

Lead walkthroughs and reviews. Ask to review and approve architectural changes.

Schedule instructional/informational meetings and send invitations.

Be sure your email signature reflects your rank.

Ditto with business cards and a name block for your desk. Ask for any rank based perks such as parking, expense account, office.

Dress for executive, not for line manager.

Periodically send announcements and updates in the manner of an authority, which you are.

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