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I joined this new company just 5 months ago. I have 1.4 year experience in web development both on front-end and back-end.

Here in this organization they recruited me as a web developer, so I joined, but now they are telling me to learn Artificial Intelligence and after one month I should be able to take lectures on that subject in college.

I am thinking that this is not related to me. I tried to explain but I got an indirect soft warning that if I refuse to do this there may be not much work on web development here.

Now I am totally confused what to do? I am thinking to quit this job. My question: is quitting the job the right decision?

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We cannot make your decision for you, you need to take the call.

If you strongly feel like learning a(ny) new technology / domain is not aligned with your career path and not going to be helpful going forward, then engaging into such activities and assignments is not going to be very fruitful for you and the organization. The way out can be looking for other opportunities, either inside the organization or outside.

However, given that you're at the very beginning of your career path, I'd be inclined to suggest to get involved, learn new things and apply them in your work. At times, we all need to learn new things, nothing is going to be around forever. Once you grow, as part of your job you'll have to face new challenges, learn and implement new ideas/ concepts and work on new technologies. The best time is now - so don't be afraid.


As you mentioned in the comments:

they are asking me to learn on my own. i have no idea about AI.

This seems unrealistic. Given that you don't have the background / previous experience, if the organization wants you to learn something (new), they should also arrange the proper learning environment for you. They should be providing you access to some sort of internal / external boot camp, training or mentoring sessions. Also, this learning should be on record and accounted for. Make sure you communicate this to your manager/ superior in a formal way and also make sure the timeline is set in a way that makes it achievable.

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  • they are asking me to learn on my own. i have no idea about AI. one more point to notice is i am not from computer science. – ThisisFish Dec 23 '19 at 6:45
  • @ThisisFish that is not acceptable. have a discussion with your manager / superior and inform them that you need some training / mentoring to learn this. Also, make sure that the timelines are set properly and realistically, so that a positive result can be achieved. – Sourav Ghosh Dec 23 '19 at 6:49
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    yes. i did asked that and they said i need to look for a course which is in budget, not costly ...... on udemy or any other online platform. – ThisisFish Dec 23 '19 at 6:55
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    @ThisisFish OK, that sounds positive to me.. they are going to either sponsor or reimburse the cost for the course...right? What else do you expect from them? – Sourav Ghosh Dec 23 '19 at 6:57
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    Let us continue this discussion in chat. – ThisisFish Dec 23 '19 at 6:57
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We see this in all aspects of IT / IS industry. Companies want to test-drive data science, so they opt for one of two ways:

1) post job ad for a data scientist, but call it "Python Developer" or "Data Analyst".. and then lump 3 job roles into it (DBA, Analyst, Scientist), and offer them $50k

2) tell some tech person at work to go "learn data science".. because they think it's something you can just learn overnight, they won't have to spend any money to get the ball rolling on it, and they can use you to test-drive it

Both methods fail miserably...

1) DBA, Analyst & Scientist are 3 different roles each needing a $50k+ professional. By asking 1 person to show up to do all 3 roles, the person will be over-taxed managing data and trying to do analysis, they will never have time for research and exploration (the data science part). A competent Data Scientist will want $100k+, so they won't get a real data scientist. Instead, they'll get a faux-DS person.. someone that can stuff data through python algorithms, but doesn't really understand what's going on or why they're doing it. But, person has a job (probably desperate to get one right out of college).

2) person told to "go learn this" is basically chucked into the deep end of the pool with statistics and other high level stuff they have no clue about, and perhaps no interest in learning. But, they need to learn those high-level fundamentals to understand data science. This person will feel overwhelmed.

Both paths lead to a lackluster end result. Management will expect someone to just wave a magic data science wand and solve multi-million (billion) dollar problems with this fancy AI, Machine Learning, etc that managers have heard all about (through buzzwords, not real education). The person trying to do it will crash hard, and management won't see it as worth pursuring.. so they'll look for the next buzzword craze to go pursue so they can try to make it work and make it look good at their company and on their resume.

This is how many projects at companies (where management has no real idea what it entails) ends up flopping. Someone heard something, but has no clue about it. So, they want to do it, but don't want to invest a lot of time and money into it in case it flops (business managers invest in risk management.. and many of them think that involves mitigating risk by cheaping out on initiatives, so if it flops, it won't be that bad of a loss... but, they don't realize that by cheaping out they've hamstrung the initiative from the start, creating the inevitable blowup they worry about to begin with).

I had jobs do this to me in the past. If they were willing to foot the bill on learning / training.. ok, fine. But, if it was somethign radically different from my job description, I'd expect a pay raise to go with it. (EG: you're a web dev... them expecting you to be the new faux data scientist that will do AI magic at the company.. that's a different job description).

If they're not going to foot the bill on it, then I'd tell them that they don't understand what all is entailed in learning it.

To make it make sense to them, I often use learning a new language and culture as an example.

EG: I had a Project Manager come to me one time and tell me that I (a DBA) needed to field a web dev project. I had never done web dev, so I had no clue how to roll something like that out. They saw that I was generating some basic HTML pages, so they just assumed I was a web dev as well. But, what they wanted was active server pages and what-not.. things that would require a web server and lots more skill and resources then I had available to me.

To make the project manager understand what they were asking of me, I told them it would be like them going to China to become an HR person. They would need to learn the language (Chinese), and then how to do HR. It was two things totally out of their wheelhouse. But, they were asking me to just magically know how to do web dev overnight to roll out an online project tracking for a major system.

An alternate way to do this .... show them a bill.

Research all the classes and such you'd need to take to learn AI. Then write up an invoice or what-not and hand it to your boss.

When your boss goes "what's this?" You go, that's the cost estimate for training me on AI. Include the hours it would take you to learn it as well, because that's going to be the amount of down time you're going to need to learn the stuff where you won't be doing your normal job as well.

Because that's really what companies listen to.. time and money.. and time is money, so both translate into money.

Basically, you can balk about this.. or you can do like a lot of contractors do.. just nod your head and smile, then draft up a cost estimate that will show them that what they are asking is outlandishouly expensive. Once they see the time and money it will cost them, they'll rethink the strategy, b/c it adds context to the request in a way they can understand.

As it is right now, they don't understand anything about AI.. just that it's "an IT thing.. and we have an IT guy ... so tell him to do it."

Anything is possible. You just have to interpret it into time and money to make them understand if they really want to have you pursue it or not.

And, (as you said in repying to others) they are asking you to do all this in your spare time.. that is a sure-fire exclamation point that they are looking to explore data science for the absolutely cheapest cost possible.. IE: no cost to them, all cost to you.

That is not the kind of place you want to work at. Or, at least, you need to re-orient them to make them understand how outlandish their request is.

Again, submit a cost estimate, and when they balk jsut say "well, let's assume you were told to move to China and become an HR person.. but you were told to foot the expense on your own.."

You have to put it in their language for them to understand.. and that's where being an IT person and IT manager comes in. An IT manager knows how to translate stuff into businss terms to make other managers understand how ludicrous their requests are.

(As others have said, data science is an interesting field to pursue. But, right now it's all a hot mess. You have tons of foreign exchange grads coming out of college lying on their resumes about what they can do and how many years of experience they have all so they can get analyst jobs. You have companies that have no clue what data science is, so they put out job offers for trifecta DBA / Analyst / DS for $40k/yr without realizing how insulting that is. And, every company thinks that "real data scientists" eat, sleep and breath code, so they want you to have an extensive portfolio you can show them of work you've done on your own.. which is nuts, because it means you busted your hump doing a lot of work for no pay. Or, they want to see what you've done at other companies without realizing that would violate corporate espinage or IP theft laws. It's just ludicrous right now).

Source: I'm 15 years in the Data Analytics industry and just got a Masters in IS with heavy data science. I've been dealing with this stuff for a while now, as well as clueless management that doesn't realize how insane their requests are.

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I can't speak for all professions, but in IT you have to learn something new all your life. It's an important part of our career to stay up to date with the latest trends. So, actually, it's totally normal to learn something new.

There may not be a lot of web development work to do.

You can refuse to learn AI if you don't want to, but in that case you'll have to look for another job.

We cannot decide for you, so you have to think about this situation and choose what suits you best.


PS

they are asking me to learn on my own. i have no idea about AI. one more point to notice is i am not from computer science

Well, AI is a complex subject, and to succeed in this field you need to have a good mathematical background. Statistics and probability calculation are must have here. You could take some courses in college. I'd say you need to spend about a year in college to be in good shape in AI. So you can't learn it in a couple of weeks.

It seems that your manager is softly "making" you quit your job with unrealistic deadlines.

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  • This is basically the same thing I mentioned in my answer, but the problem with OP is: they believe the company is not willing to support them in the learning process, which brings in a different angle to this question. – Sourav Ghosh Dec 23 '19 at 6:55
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    Just make sure you get paid for the training/education. – Michael Dec 23 '19 at 18:22
  • It could also be that the manager is not completely aware of the depth of what they are asking. They may have seen a Microsoft or Google AI demo and hope to add it to the site like you plug in a toolkit. – Robb Sadler Dec 23 '19 at 20:41
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    "Well, AI is a complex subject, and to succeed in this field you need to have a good mathematical background. " This is decreasingly true. For example check the podcast AI in Industry, which just had some podcasts on less technical roles in AI. Even as a developer, we're seeing more frameworks / metaprogramming (also covered in that podcast) – Chip McCormick Dec 23 '19 at 22:51
  • @ChipMcCormick Perhaps you would like to read this answer – scaaahu Dec 26 '19 at 9:37
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You really have to make up your mind what you want to do.

"Continue working at the company as a web developer" doesn't seem to be one of the possibilities. So you have two choices:

Choice 1: Jump head first into the subject of AI and do what you can to learn it. Don't do it for the company, do it for yourself. If you are lucky, you learn something new which is just good for you. If you are unlucky, you don't learn anything, but at least you get paid until the company figures it out. If you learn something, it may still not be good enough to do anything useful for the company, I think AI is a subject where you have to be reasonably good to be of any value. So at the end of this you have learned something or not, and you will probably be out of the job, but it's all at the expense of your company.

Choice 2: If you have no intention at all to learn that subject, you still take all the books, take all the training, don't work too hard on it, but instead look for web development jobs elsewhere.

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  • I'll second choice #2. As they already back-tracked on giving you web-dev projects as well as looking for cheap training. And contrary to other answers "learning AI" on the side can easily be a waste of time. Jack of all trades, master of none; don't fall into that trap. – paulj Dec 23 '19 at 19:03
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I don't believe AI will ever be needed as an average web developer. The truth is most web developers will just use libraries or services to enable AI without really knowing what it is. You certainly wont need to know the science/maths behind it.

However, you have been given an opportunity to learn one of the hottest topics currently in the tech industry. You may well find yourself in a few years taking on more complex back-end development that involves software engineering and implementing AI. Back-end development has unlimited complexity.

Find a course, get the company to pay for it and learn AI. It will set you ahead of most other developers when you apply to your next job.

Watch a few YouTube videos on AI and try to get excited about it. As you get older I think you will regret not taking opportunities like these, especially as it doesn't cost you anything.

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  • Most pragmatic answer here. It seems that you (OP) have been gifted the opportunity to become 'more than' a web developer, at the encouragement of your company (where else would you get that opportunity?) I would take it with both hands. The other consideration is that they gave you "a soft warning that there may not be much more web development work" which IMO seems like a hint that there may be layoffs etc in the future for 'web developer only' positions. It's up to you whether you want to branch out into another area like AI / ML or if you want to pursue Web Dev elsewhere! – seventyeightist Dec 24 '19 at 20:09
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Something else to consider:

Often in web development they really using mean machine learning when they are asking for AI. If that is the case here (I would discuss with your management if you are unsure), that absolutely falls within the purview of Web Development, so I would definitely advise going for learning it as it will certainly benefit you going forward. As others have mentioned, learning new technologies, languages, etc., is an integral part of being in a technology field (which web development is), so refusing to follow in this case would say to your company you might not be fit for the roll.

If, however, they mean AI (or implementing a machine learning system), then they are asking you to pursue an activity that is primarily a research/computer science task and has been for the last 30 odd years. Then it is more up to you whether this is a direction you wish to go or not. While many people think this is an exciting idea and field to go into, it may not be for you, at which point moving on to something more closely aligned with your personal career goals is probably best for both parties.

As a final note, many of the best and brightest developers that I know have no 'formal' computer science training, so don't view that as a limitation. There are many places online to take free courses in everything so you can start there until the company sources a better solution for providing paid content. I would, however, ensure you establish with your management how much time you get to set aside during working hours to study (while normally it is expected to do research into new technologies during personal time, in this case where the company is making it a job responsibility and including requirements for schooling in a given time frame they should be accommodating and give you at least a little time to study 'on the clock').

Edit: updated to reflect clarifications from the comments

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    I agree with the primary point of this post, but disagree with the rationale: "web development" and "machine learning" are not within the same purview. The things they have in common are superficial. However, I do agree that the experience can only benefit OP. It's also possible that OP will find AI/machine learning/data science/applied math enjoyable. More generally, being flexible early in one's role/career, can be more valuable than the specific task being done. Ultimately, +1 for the core advice, which is solid. – darkside Dec 23 '19 at 23:11
  • There is AI and ML, both of these exist have have been used for decades. When you say "True AI", I find that confusing as True AI to me is the same as saying AI. Am I right in thinking "Conscious AI" is a better word for what you mean by True AI? – flexi Dec 24 '19 at 13:43
  • @darkside as a web developer for my whole career I disagree. There are definitely instances where machine learning overlaps with web development. Not the implementation of a machine learning system, but the usage of. For instance, if I run a product website and want to get the best match to show for a 'products you might also be interested in', using machine learning is a fantastic way to make that happen. – Emerson Propst Dec 24 '19 at 18:25
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    @flexi Conscious AI might be more accurate, but I hesitate to lump ML in with AI as it is fundamentally different. ML is more of a statistical implementation, while AI would more accurately act as an autonomous individual. That said, I may be biased being the son of an AI researcher :-) – Emerson Propst Dec 24 '19 at 18:29
  • I completely agree with that, AI and ML are not the same. – flexi Dec 24 '19 at 18:44
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I have 1.4 year experience in web development both on front-end and back-end.

So you are a very junior software developer. Perhaps just a code monkey (and these are risking their job a lot more than genuine software developers, because by definition they are easily replacable; the economical value of software is concentrated on software design aspects, and the design bugs, e.g. the software architecture defects, are the most costly).

Here in this organization they recruited me as a web developer, so I joined, but now they are telling me to learn Artificial Intelligence and after one month I should be able to take lectures on that subject in college.

You should ask yourself: how do you view yourself professionally within 10 years from now?

  • unemployed, because web development techniques changed so much that you did not follow them. Maybe in 10 years PHP would be completely forgotten and replaced with things like Ocsigen, Haxe, or FastCGI applications coded in Go (or C or C++).

  • an expert web developer, then of course you did learn new things, including in AI (in your case, machine learning), and you could become an expert software architect. If you still use PHP by then, you might consider libraries such as PHP-ML but you still need to make efforts to learn how to use it wisely.

  • still a software developer, but working on other things than web (e.g. embedded software, including embedded web service with libonion or Wt or maybe Lua-Http) because, as every software developer, you did learn on the field.

  • as a manager, but then your probability of being fired becomes higher: manager are more easily replaceable than technical experts. I professionally have seen more managers losing their job or activity than competent software developers losing them. For more, read Brooks' Mythical Man Month and Graeber's Bullshit jobs.

Of course see Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years and Joel's test. Both written by very successful software developers or computer scientists.

You might even consider contributing to some free software project (perhaps RefPerSys, but there are many thousands other open source projects on github or gitlab) on your own time from home. This paper on simple economics of open source explains why is it rational to do so (in a few words: increase both your technical and soft skills and show them).

In your shoes, I would take the opportunity to learn something about what they call AI. Of course your employer should allow you to follow AI lectures (maybe simply on YouTube) while being paid for that, and that should be discussed, by email, with your management.

Take a few seconds to understand the Russian saying век живи век учись (my late parents repeated that to me every week! there is a lot of wisdom in that saying).

PS. I am very biased and 60 years old in 2019: I have a PhD in AI (defended in 1990, mostly symbolic artificial intelligence) and I am right now learning web technologies and self-learning recent stuff on deep learning. Because of AI winters, I became expert on compilation and static source code analysis. Now close to retirement, I am doing some AI again (see RefPerSys for more, it is a hobby project). If you are a web expert, I would appreciate an answer to this question.

I am programming since 1975 (so before the invention of the Web; as a teenager, I had the privilege to code on IBM 370/168 with punched cards in PL/1, because my father Dimitri was a compiler developer then at IBM). Nothing since that time is relevant today, except the computer science aspects: since then, programming languages have changed, operating systems have changed, application domains evolved, character encoding changed (I first started using EBCDIC). Of course the Web did not exist in 1975.... And in 1975, the mainframe I was using (at IBM France center in Paris, on weekends) was not connected to the embryonic Internet. I professionally used the Internet in 1986 (for example I did setup the SMTP service as sendmail on soleil.serma.cea.fr and you might find old emails of mine signed from basile@soleil.serma.cea.fr in the previous century) and at that time the Web was just embryonic.

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  • I dont agree on your opinion! – Pratik Dec 24 '19 at 10:02
  • @Pratik: what do you disagree with? My perception of web development evolution? – Basile Starynkevitch Dec 24 '19 at 13:13
  • you don't need to bring php in this picture, its senseless statement you made in 1st point. – Pratik Dec 26 '19 at 7:21
  • @Pratik: Why? I really think that PHP is important to mention – Basile Starynkevitch Dec 26 '19 at 9:17
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    I appreciate this answer, thanks for taking the time! – P. Hopkinson Dec 26 '19 at 14:51
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is quitting the job the right decision?

No. They’re offering you a great opportunity to learn an interesting new area which will significantly enhance your career and your earning potential.

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There are some excellent answers already given, however I was in a similar situation as what you are, 3 years ago. Web developer title unfortunately is a broad term and incorporates lot of technologies. It can be frontend with something like React or backend with Django/Node/Java or even .NET. It can also demand some knowledge of deployments/dev ops etc.

Point being, web development is a wide field and AI(ML to be precise) can be a subset in the same paradigm. However, from my current experience I can tell you that if you want to be a great web developer, you need to stick to one thing and learn it really well. ML is at odds with Web similar to how Mobile development is sort of at odds with ML. If you start with ML, there is quite a bit of Math and Stats to grasp following which you need to pick up a framework and learn it. Plus data analysis(Looking at the wordings used by your company) before even doing any form of ML.

Practically unless you devote most part of the day to learn entirely different stacks, it does not make sense to do ML if you really have your heart set of Web.

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  • this post is rather hard to read (wall of text), would you mind editing it to better shape, in order to meet How to Answer guidelines? – gnat Dec 24 '19 at 7:33

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