I'm working at a university as a software developer and I've developed some systems in free time (because of stuff that annoyed me). The boss of the faculty of computer science and me came into contact when I showed him this software and he wanted to have it for his own faculty (I studied something else).

I later got into the university programming department in a very specialized unit that is not under the control of the boss directly. I work fine and I believe my colleagues and "lower level bosses" haven't done anything to point attention to me in a bad way.

But yesterday, the highest boss called me on my phone (his assistant even explicitly asked me for my number first, as nobody there had it), he had a job for me (parsing lots of PDFs with more or less uncertain data, and getting them into Excel-Format (I parsed the PDFs with about 8-10 simple regexes)) that "no one else he knew could do so easily" (because he knows I did something kind of related in the previous software I demonstrated him). The job is not explicitly easy, but every software developer should be able to do that. He also called me while he was on his holidays (where he was still working though), thus, it seemed to be important to him.

I accepted this, but I am not sure what this means. Is this a bad sign? Or a good one? Or none at all?

I'm a bit confused about this, since it was very unexpected to me and even my bosses, who said that he should use "his own" programmers for that. I'm also still a student, not a full member, and as such, I am not in a position of much power or decision making. What to do now?

  • 6
    This seems more of a humblebrag than a question. What exactly is the question? What do you do if you are so good at your job everyone wants you?
    – blankip
    Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 4:07

3 Answers 3


Throughout your working life, there are going to be a lot of situations where people above you who are not your direct supervisor are going to ask you to do things.

This is something that you will have to get used to.

Yes, the proper procedure would have been for the "upper boss" to contact your supervisor and clear it with them. However, you have to be practical. Sometimes things are time-sensitive or your supervisor cannot be contacted.

Also, with some organisational structures, the concept of reporting lines is a bit hazy. You may have multiple people you are taking direction from. This is not usually a problem if everyone is acting in good faith.

If you receive a task from someone who is not your supervisor, you should let your supervisor know as a FYI about it. If it's a large task, you should really be asking for your supervisor's advice. They may re-deligate the task to someone else, or get in touch with the "upper boss". In any case, keeping your supervisor engaged shows that you respect their position.


It's a good sign - you have useful skills that have come to the attention of someone in a position of authority! Just make sure your own boss is aware of any requests that come in, it's up to him to take it up with the other boss if he has an issue with it.


Explain it to your manager and ask for approval.

If your manager approves then go for it.

If your manager refuses they should handle the 'upper boss', if not then contact the 'upper boss' and explain you can't do it as your manager hasn't approved your time on this task (try not to drop him/her in it, but try not to be the man in the middle) When pushing back on the task if consider mentioning that his devs should be able to handle the task.

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