I am an employee at a Fortune 100 company. I just started at this job two months ago. Prior to this I was a consultant.
Today I had a meeting to start off multiple projects...the last project, which this post is about, is considered a bonus: it was "thrown out there" "in case you can do it."
To give some context, this is almost a "pipe dream" project for them. I am the third person they hired into this role since they created it. My two predecessors, my peer with a similar job role, our manager (who also managed the predecessors), our manager's manager, and our manager's manager's manager - who are all smart and capable, as far as I can tell so far - have so far been unable to complete this task.
They told me at the meeting that "We would really like to be able to do this, but so far, we've tried every which way and we can't seem to do it. It would be amazing if you could do it, but it's a plus, not an expectation." They gave details about what they tried, of course, but I'll leave those out here.
As they were describing it to me, I had some ideas of what to try- namely there was a project I worked on as a consultant, several months before I took this job, where I took an approach (both in terms of the method and the actual code) that seemed like it would work here.
When I got home, I tested it, not expecting much; after all, people much smarter than myself weren't able to do this. Since this is all on publicly available sources, I was able to do it from home without using company data or resources in any way. (Also, I'm salaried, so there are no "off hours" per se.)
It worked immediately. Some tweaking will be needed, but it's basically working already- I'm already at a stage that my leadership and peers claimed earlier today was not possible for us to accomplish.
Ordinarily, I would tell my bosses- but the method and code I used is proprietary- property of me, because I developed it when I was an independent consultant- nobody else was involved in its development and no one else has seen the code (my then-client saw and used the resulting data, not the code itself- the product was actually the data- not the same data as needed by my current employer but data that was collected in the same way).
Currently my employer is paying a 3rd-party vendor for the data. I don't know how much they are paying the vendor exactly but I've deduced it is at least $600,000 a year.
Right now, my plan is to just pretend I too couldn't figure out how to do this task (remember this is a bonus "would be nice" task), because I don't want to provide my employer with my proprietary method and code that is worth, based on my past earnings from this former client alone, about USD $45k/year, and evidently more in some applications. I do want my employer to have access to this data so they don't have to pay the vendor, but I don't want to screw myself out my work prior to this employer, either. One day I will leave this job, or who knows I may be laid off, and I would need to get back into consulting using everything I did before and more.
The argument could be made that my employer already paid for my skills when they hired me- but they did not pay for my proprietary tools I developed before joining them.
As far as I can tell, my options are: pretend I don't know how to do the (bonus) task; give my employer my proprietary tool for them to keep using even after I leave or they lay me off; ??? sell my employer the data but not the tool, same as the former client.
What are the risks and tradeoffs to consider when making this decision? What other options are there?
I told my boss about the solution and he laughed at me, saying that I must be mistaken and there is no way that anyone, especially me, would have been able to accomplish this task. So I guess my company doesn't want a solution anyway. oh well.