He is the leader of the startup, he owns the concept of the idea but he doesn't know how to implement it. I'm the new IT guy.

The thing is that he wants me to adapt our software that we previously build for one specific customer to a more generalized and automatic solution like a SaaS. And for what I know, that would take months of hard work and it's just me in the development of that service. This is my first work experience, I just got graduated from the university...

I know that I should say "This is going to take more that you expect." but he already told me that we will have to work harder and faster if that is the case.

I need your opinion about this, I'm starting to think that I'm wrong...

EDIT: Thank you for answering, really. I needed to talk about it.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Neo
    Sep 11 '19 at 11:53

10 Answers 10


You are not the owner. You get paid a salary, and you work for that salary. If the owner wants you to work more, he needs to pay overtime.

You can tell him that it will take longer. Then you come to work and work 40 hours a week, not more. 40 hours is most healthy for you, and it is most effective. You don’t do more useful work in more hours, you just get more exhausted.

Every month or so ask yourself “do I want to continue doing this job for this money”. If the answer is no, you look for a better job. If you feel bad about leaving your employer hanging: He will not hesitate one second to lay you off if you are not needed.

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    The last part is the most important part for a new university graduate, and one I had to learn the hard way many times. Do not make my mistake. The company has no loyalty to you, so you should not feel undue loyalty to the company. Put in your 40 hours and do your best, and expect that in exchange the company is doing their best for you. If your best is not good enough for them, they will fire you in a heartbeat. If their best is not good enough for you, you should do likewise.
    – Ertai87
    Sep 10 '19 at 18:39
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    @JoeStrazzere That's not necessarily true for a standard salaried employee. If the owner wants real skin in the game from their employees, then throw in stock options that will rise in value according to output. You don't expect a salaried employee to output at 300% for free.
    – Nelson
    Sep 11 '19 at 3:37
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    Extrapolating from some of the other comments: You're making the unjustified assumption that the employee has no stake. It's common for startups employees to be offered options.
    – Mars
    Sep 11 '19 at 4:51
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    "40 hours is most healthy for you, and it is most effective" study after study has shown that 40 hours per week is actually too high for peak productivity for knowledge workers. The peak is closer to 32-35 hours. Just because lots of companies do something, doesn't stop it from being dumb.
    – MGOwen
    Sep 11 '19 at 5:24
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    OP should most definitely NOT work 40 hours a week unless that’s what their contract says. They should work what their contract says they should, which could be more it could be less. Sep 11 '19 at 5:54

From some of your comments, your boss has legitimate business concerns about having a product which can generate revenue. Your analysis of work necessary has established that the work wouldn't be done for six months, that's a long time to go without revenue. You need to find a solution somewhere in the middle that is an acceptable compromise for both sides.

I think you should consider the idea of a Minimal Viable Product. Is there subset of features you could build in two months that could be used to start generating revenue? You could then incrementally add other features over the next four months to make the system more complete and eventually get to the finished product. Work with your owner/boss to identify what features could generate that initial revenue and you now have the beginnings of a plan to build the system and build the revenue stream.

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    You are absolutely right. You have hit the nail. One thing that I'm doing wrong is letting him impose how to implement this project instead of me leading the technological stack and stablishing the technical limitations and constraints of the project. Thank you for providing me this point of view, I will seriously consider this.
    – anon
    Sep 10 '19 at 18:51
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    This is a great answer because it sets you up to learn and explore options. When someone says "we need Project A done by X date" sometimes the best approach is to ask why and then respond to the real driving factor instead of just the deadline.
    – dwizum
    Sep 10 '19 at 20:26
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    While the other answers are very good advices ("don't overwork to meet unrealistic deadlines"), this one is the best answer to the problem at hand.
    – Echox
    Sep 11 '19 at 9:39

Be realistic about what you think you are capable of doing. Do not ever promise or agree to something that you don't believe that you can do.

Do not overwork yourself and sacrifice your family and sanity to try to do something that you don't believe is possible. If your boss thinks that the work you're doing is much easier than it actually is, there is basically zero chance he will appreciate or reward your sacrifice.

  • ..... unless you get fairly compensated for the trouble. Sep 10 '19 at 19:46
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    @P.Hopkinson That won't happen if your boss thinks the work you're doing is much easier than it actually is. This is a two-person company and the OP is one of the two people. Sep 10 '19 at 19:54

So, your employer:

  1. Has only 1 person (you) on an important project
  2. That one and only person is someone who's fresh out of university.

This shows that either the project is not as important to him as he says it is, or that he's completely irrational.

If the project was really that important, he would hire someone with a serious experience to lead it... or at least with some reasonable experience.

Giving it to someone with zero experience and expecting results far in excess of normal, IF your employer really believes what he says, is a sign that he's so far gone from common sense that he cannot be reasoned with.

And even if he's just trying to squeeze more performance out of you, that kind of treatment is not something that can develop into a good working relationship.

Find another job.

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    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. To be more precise, I have a year of internship experience. But believe me, in my internship I only had to code and fix bugs, not to deploy a legacy application of 9 microservices and 4 different types of DBs on a Kubernetes cluster and provide a SaaS, all of that in 2 months... There is some work already done but there's is a lot of work more to do like security, monitoring, authentication, billing...
    – anon
    Sep 10 '19 at 21:27
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    @Agus If a project is important, you just don't put inexperienced people in front of them. Period. Sep 11 '19 at 6:50
  • @devouredelysium unless you want something half complete that you can show off but that likely will fall apart once a wolf blows on it. Many fresh graduates are eager to build stuff and feel good about burning through extra hours. So it's a nice way to get some prototype quickly done, deploy that, make the appearance you have something solid - if you're lucky people jump on it and you get rich - or enough investment to do something serious. Most likely other people will be stuck with turning the mess into something properly. Not saying I'd recommend that, just why people do it. Sep 11 '19 at 10:52
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    @FrankHopkins the CEO is doing this because he wants someone naive and cheap. He knows he wouldn't get away this with a top of the class experienced professional -- in fact, the person in better position to actually make a good assessment of the situation and of how feasible is to get his project done. When your business is about to crumble you don't bring in an intern. You bring expensive contractors/consultants paid to save the ship no matter what. They do get paid accordingly, though. Sep 11 '19 at 10:56
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    The percentage of startups that go anywhere is small anyway. There's no point to work for someone that is a) naive, b) cheap at the same time. I have no issues to be working for a naive boss as long as he fills my pockets full and makes it worthwhile. Sep 11 '19 at 11:03

he already told me that we will have to work harder and faster if that is the case

That sentence appears to me as a red line. What does he expect? More work hours from you, or just to put pressure into you? In any case it's a bad situation, but before putting all your energy inside it please have a talk with him and let him know that your time isn't free, that it's not because you are new into the market doesn't mean he can abuse your times.

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    Working harder and faster is something you do to cram 6 months of work into perhaps 5 available months. There is no such thing as hard enough and fast enough to cram 6 months of work into 2 months elapsed time. Sep 10 '19 at 23:16
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    There is only so much "harder & faster" that a person can do, before physical & mental fatigue set in, and you wind up getting LESS useful work done. It varies from person to person: for myself, I could perhaps cram one month's work into a week or 10 days, but after that I'd be pretty useless.
    – jamesqf
    Sep 11 '19 at 3:58

Perhaps in a nicer way, you need to tell your employer, "Fast, good or robust. Pick two." This is the Iron Triangle, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_management_triangle, and no amount of wishing, ranting, wanting or needing changes the fact that limits exist. If his argument is the company will fold without it in two months, I would suggest you either leave immediately, or if you're not worried about the reference work diligently for 40 hours while looking for your next job.

If he's reasonable, you might consider putting in extra hours and working hard to shorten the delivery date, but do so with open eyes knowing that your sacrifice may be rewarded or it may not. Startups usually fail, but if you're in a gambling mood and the stars align, I won't tell you to absolutely walk away either.

EDIT: Devoured Elysium raises an excellent point in the comments. Should you choose to attempt to salvage this, when you present the options, you need to be clear that Fast and Good will mean only the underlying framework and 20% of the actual functionality will roll out on day 1 (or whatever the outcome would be). Present an approach for following up with improvements in a good timeframe, but just telling the boss you'll try and some things will slide are likely to just be putting off a disaster in two months of hell trying to even come close.

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    Perhaps in a nicer way, you need to tell your employer, "Fast, good or robust. Pick two. -> that's never going to be an issue for the CEO, he'll just tell him "fast". Goodness and robustness are to a high degree qualities that can only be measured by the software developer when looking at the code and developing the system. A business person couldn't really care less about that. Sep 11 '19 at 10:58

It seems like you know allready what work has to be done. Make a plan of all the steps and estimate generously. You can then give him an estimate for the core product and different features and ask him to prioritize.

If you just say to him "this will take 6 months" and he doesn't know why he will think the 2 months will work if he just squeezes hard enough.

You could also think about outsourcing something you defined in the plans you made. Try to make him responsible for hiring and communicating with the contractor. He will probably hire cheap and it will take 3 times longer than estimated. Now it's him that's responsible for a delay and your estimates will sound a lot more reasonable.

Whatever you do, don't let it kill yourself. If you estimated correctly and you cram that work into 2 months, this would mean 24 hour workdays.

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    Thanks for answering. Yes, I estimated based on my knowledge and little experience. I told him about my plan, and the previous developer that worked in the company warned him that the project is not easy. His excuse is that we have no income money and we have to start billing. All the money the company has is thank of investors.
    – anon
    Sep 10 '19 at 17:00
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    @Agus then just jump ship ASAP. He's pretty much telling you he's going to be running out of money in 2 months unless that project magically goes to fruition. Sep 11 '19 at 6:51
  • @Agus What I meant is this: Don't just estimate. You have to show how and why you estimated this way. Even if your manager doesn't understand all the steps its harder to discount them if he is face to face with a plan including 1024 todos than if you just give him a summary estimation. Sep 11 '19 at 7:20
  • @Mangocherry Yes, you are right. I think I have to work in that direction. Furthermore, it's my first time developing such a service so I guess that research time and unexpected errors should also be included.
    – anon
    Sep 11 '19 at 8:02
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    @Agus For deadline planning, one trick I learned is to add 20% to the estimation of every small task you plan and then add another 20% on top of the sum of all tasks. Then you can be somewhat optimistic that you could meet the deadline that you fixed.
    – Echox
    Sep 11 '19 at 9:49

Your founder is a cheapskate.

It is not reasonable to put all the pressure of IT delivery on a single new graduate, and the only reason to do this is being unwilling to pay for the proper expertise and the time from those people to do the job properly - in other words, he's cheap.

Don't sweat it, do your best and be truthful. The sooner this founder is faced with realism the better for him and for you, but you don't owe him this reality check.

  • I used to be a cheapskate and I agree. And I learned from my mistakes.
    – Bulrush
    Sep 11 '19 at 11:10

My employer wants me to do a work of 6 months in just 2 months

I want you to work for me for 12 months, for free. Wants don't necessarily translate into reality.

Now the two of you need to sit down and figure out what you can deliver and what he can get. I recommend spending some of your time looking into project management and planning, which are skills most senior software developers have a pretty decent understanding of, so you'll need them eventually. You use these skills to communicate these 3 with your boss:

  • Estimates
  • Trade offs
  • Timelines

At minimum you need to create an estimate for how long you think it would take you to do what you think you wants, and an estimate for what useful slice of the work you think you can deliver in the time he wants. Also be clear that these are estimates, not promises.

As a developer your part in product/project management is to do the estimates, to work with your boss to split the work into independently useful chunks, and to update your boss on the development progress. His job is to make sure you can do all that, and to prioritize these chunks in an order that creates the most value to the business.

If you don't know where to start, I think Scrum and User Stories are still the most relevant in the industry for now, and there's an abundance of resources to learn about them.


I've been in similar situation - boss wanted project in few months, we estimated about a year. So, from my real life experience comes these points:

  1. Be sure to have a paper trail of your estimate. If there is only a paper trail of estimate by your boss, you are in a bad place.

  2. "Work harder, work faster, work overtime" all can make software happen faster, but quality will deteriorate. And so will your personal life. You can have next job, but things like travel, concerts or romantic opportunities may never reappear. Be sure your boss knows price he will pay in terms of technical debt, and that price you pay from your personal life is well compensated. You have the right to simply refuse overtime*, and you are supposed to already work as hard and fast as feasible, right?

  3. If you can, tell your boss what you need from other employees and other departments to make it faster. We were able to offload a lot of testing to departments that were meant to use our software, and department heads was available for us to answer questions about things not specified in documentation on short notice, that helped.

    As usual, keep a paper trail to make sure that, in case you didn't get what you said you needed, you have some proof you actually requested. It is your boss responsibility to assign you resources, or not. It is your responsibility to estimate what you need and give your boss data to make his decision.

  4. Sometimes quitting is good. You can look for opportunities even before you actually decide to quit. At the very least, it will help you estimate your market worth, so you'll have some number to compare your salary against.

    Oh, and don't be shy to say "Company was a bad fit for me" on the interview. If pressed, you may say that "position I was assigned required someone with much greater experience, and I graduated X month ago". You'll look as inexperienced. That's OK, they can read, they have seen your graduation date anyway.

  5. All in all, maybe you are better and have greater potential than you believe? As long as you keep previous points in mind, there is no harm in trying.

My team finished in time that was halfway between boss expectations and our estimate, and we ended up quitting anyway. I'm much happier now, with wife I love.

* This may not be true in some jurisdictions. Still, you should be able to quit.