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I've been offered a job at a local company which I cannot disclose for obvious reasons, and I've been here for almost 4 months. It is a junior web development role. When I got this job, I got an empty piece of paper for my job description and they pretty much summed up what I'll be doing by calling it "website maintenance". Its been 4 months, we've been tied up with a major project and I've not had any career planning/ mentoring. All I've been doing for the past 4 months is that each time I do not know something, I frantically google what I don't know and try to learn it as fast as possible and find a solution to things.

Nobody has bothered to explain to me what exactly my role should be, what exactly I'm supposed to learn, what are my options as a career path etc. I rock up to work each morning and feel like an idiot, just waiting for the "next job" and trying to make the most out of it.

I personally enjoy designing Web apps and am in the process of building one for myself. I have knowledge of the entire site and am capable of taking a barebone server and put a Wordpress site on it. I have a background in Computer Science and worked as a sysadmin for 6 months...

Is this position good for my career, and what should I do if I decide to continue as a web developer?

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    "each time I do not know something, I frantically google what I don't know and try to learn it as fast as possible and find a solution to things" that sounds about right. – acolyte Jul 16 '13 at 14:50
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    This is pretty open ended, and I worry you might not get great feedback here. Are you trying to get greater clarification for what you should be doing at your work, get a change in work or a change in role at your current company, or know about options in web development across the industry. The Workplace isn't so great for "what should I do next?" type questions - they are very individual, but we might be able to help with clarifying your current role. – bethlakshmi Jul 16 '13 at 14:54
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    It would be more correct to say that you took a job with no formal job description, rather than that you are considering an offer of one, right? – jcmeloni Jul 16 '13 at 14:55
  • @bethlakshmi thanks, I guess I should start with knowing what the options are in web development across the industry and seeing that there isn't really a plan for me in my workplace, I guess I'm kinda on my own; either I continue with them or I pursue something of my own that's of value in the industry... – CrossCode40 Jul 16 '13 at 15:01
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    @user2587676 Right; I'm trying to suss out a better title and help you clarify your overall question. – jcmeloni Jul 16 '13 at 15:16
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If the company is fairly small, there isn't likely to be a lot of HR formalities in terms of career path and progression. The better question is what parts of the development cycle appeal to you? What is the status of that big project as sometimes it can be useful to jump in and see where things go. There is something to be said for developers sometimes taking on various roles which can range from gathering requirements to babysitting servers. There is part of this that is normal. Now, if you want to suggest that where you work be a bit more formalized in terms of tracking bugs, feature requests and so forth so that you can know what work is coming, that may be a fair request though this is something to talk to your boss and co-workers to see what is being used and how is that going.

The value of certain technologies will vary from location as well as within industry. For example, Oil and Gas companies may not care to prototype a low-power embedded system used to track wildlife. Similarly, I can wonder how many technologies are you wanting to get into since some technologies can be quite broad as they have various uses. For example, within .Net there are various components of the platform like WCF, WPF, ASP.Net, WF and CardSpace without looking at what's new in 4.5 that may add to this group of tools.

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Welcome to the real world. First, your situation is the rule, not the exception, particularly in IT. Second, what you're doing in response is perfect - learn everything you can on the fly. A lot of people bellyache about not being able to get a job because they don't have any experience, so they write demos on their machines while waiting for calls from recruiters. What's missing in all this is the 'real issues' one faces on the job. The 'real issues' you're confronting day to day is that experience building.

Put yourself in 'startup mode': you're going to create an organization from scratch that does what this business does. What do you have to know about accounting, inventory, sales, etc.? Try to imagine how you would structure this business, then identify the technology needed to support it.

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  • I agree with this. All of the jobs I've had as a software dev have come with VERY generic-sounding job descriptions, to the point they might as well have just stated "writes software, and whatever else we tell him to do." – James Adam Jul 16 '13 at 15:16
  • That's perfectly fine. I was expecting something along the lines of "this is what you need to learn, here's where you'll find the resources" and then get the job done, but so far, its been me googling left right centre and doing what I can to get things done. – CrossCode40 Jul 16 '13 at 15:20
  • My biggest issue is that nobody at my workplace is knowledgeable enough to tell me what I need to focus on or to give me any form of career guidance. I do not know where the market is heading towards and as much as I want to grow, I do not know which direction to take. I'm just doing my best to learn as much as I can and do the best I can on a daily basis, and not knowing where I'll end up which causes a lot of frustration because I'm walking blind... – CrossCode40 Jul 16 '13 at 15:28
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    Telling the asker, "get used to it" doesn't address the problems and questions presented in the original question. – enderland Jul 16 '13 at 16:01
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    @enderland - Edited question, particularly to provide some direction. A lot of software developers are 'self directed', they grab the football and run with it, however there is a lot of stuff to keep track of. Getting direction is good if it's available. – Meredith Poor Jul 16 '13 at 16:11
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Firstly, you should have gotten a job description in writing, but you will know that for next time.

You really need to speak to your employer about this - try and get your role clarified and tell them what you want to get in to - if they don't know about you wanting a different type of work then they can't help you at all.

If they are not open to you trying a different role out over time then it's probably time to look for another job.

The best way to learn web development is to just build websites and keep up-to-date with the industry.

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  • I've had my review and nothing has changed so far, and having spoken with the senior developer; it seems that no one really knows what to do with me. The senior dev pretty much gave himself the title. I personally enjoy building sites and web apps, and I aim to move towards a role where I can design web apps and build them. To be precise, I would like to know what's the value of certain technologies and may be I should actually focus on moving into them. I.e. sharepoint or ruby on rails etc... – CrossCode40 Jul 16 '13 at 15:11
  • I think that question has been asked a lot but if it's specifically apps then ruby might be good, php and a good understanding of JavaScript/jQuery/Some of the big backend libraries for web apps. – user319940 Jul 16 '13 at 15:15
  • It is up to the comp[any to tell you what technologies they want you to use. It is disastrous when every new developer comes in and wants to use something different. You should not as a junior dev be dictating what technologies to use becasue the use is based on business needs not your own personal growth. – HLGEM Jul 16 '13 at 22:41
  • @HLGEM I concur. At the very least I should get a job description which stipulates the technology that I should be learning, the time frame I have to pick up those skills, an understanding of where the company is going towards in terms of my domain and how I will fit into the whole scope... but at the moment - nothing has been defined & its been 4 months. – CrossCode40 Jul 17 '13 at 2:20
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    @Cross: So you've been there 4 months and you don't know what technologies your company is using? As disorganized a company as you may be working at, that doesn't sound like a company problem, it sounds more like a YOU problem. Also, if you haven't demonstrated any particular capabilities that you are good at, how is your company supposed to know where you will best fit into the whole scope? Entry level developers frequently are hired to do everything that no one else has time to do. In the process of doing that potpourri of tasks people recognize that persons talents. Not beforehand. – Dunk Jul 22 '13 at 20:00

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