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I work for a few years as a developer for a company that creates a software to manage lawsuits for large companies. It's a job I like a lot, it allows me to talk to the customers and sometimes even key users from companies much bigger than mine, which gives me a lot of knowledge and makes me proud of what I do.

Because of the nature of the software, we spend a lot of time on small details or developing big features. So far, so good.

The company I work in also is pretty decent, the managers are bad, and its poorly located almost outside of the city, but everyone in my team is nice and the boss who I respond to recognizes my good work.

The problem is that I want to focus on my technical side, I want to be a better developer so I can get better position inside the company, because my current salary is somewhat low. And my boss doesn't seem to get the message after I talked with him that I want to focus and grow on this side, while also solving some issues we have on our day by day tasks. I see it as win-win situation, but I got no response from by boss so far.

Right now we are struggling a bit to finish a project, so it's not the time to ask again about it, but once we finish I want to talk to him. I'm not satisfied, I want to work on a lot of changes that can be made in our process that even him knows that we do really bad and causes a lot of issues.

I wasn't really thinking in looking for a new job, so first I want to try again when the dust is settled to talk about it. How can I convince my boss to work on more on the technical debts we have, so it improves both the company and my career?

  • 2
    What is it that you are being asked to do? Your boss is going to ask you to work on what needs to be done rather than what you'd prefer. – HorusKol Dec 29 '19 at 3:56
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    Do you realize that it's not a "win-win situation" when you improve your skills and move on to other companies? – nvoigt Dec 29 '19 at 7:50
  • If what you want is to simply tackle technical debt why not just plan and propose changes? – Victor S Dec 29 '19 at 12:08
  • @nvoigt I may have phrased that poorly but the idea is that if I can grow inside the company I won't have reasons to look for another job, not doing both. – DH. Dec 30 '19 at 11:13
  • Best thing, then, is to work on your weak points until they become your new strong points. Or go and work elsewhere. – Jonathon Cowley-Thom Dec 31 '19 at 14:01
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The best way to handle this type of disconnect is to put a written career plan in place. These are pretty common these days and many companies already have a template for this. If not, there are plenty on the internet and you can just pick one you like.

A career plan typically starts with some goals, a strength and weakness analysis, gaps against the goals, specific action items & deliverables to close the gaps and a time line with mile stones and check in points to execute whole thing.

The most important part of the plan is the initial creation of the plan itself. You need to articulate specific (and measurable) goals. These need to be aligned with your strength & weaknesses and also the needs and requirement of your company. That's typically an iterative & collaborative activity between you and your direct manager. Many companies have HR people to help with this as well. The plan should be formally signed by both parties. It's a real commitment that goes beyond the day-to-day stuff.

If your boss is open to this and actively engages in the process, you can proceed in creating and executing the plan. The plan creates regular check points and milestones so you can make sure that both you and your boss are aligned on being on-track or correct & adjust as necessary. Having a good plan in place makes it very difficult for your boss to just ignore it or let it fizzle out.

If your boss is not interested in doing this, you have your answer as well: The company is not particularly interested in growing internal employees. You need to decide whether you are okay with this or whether you want to look elsewhere.

  • "These are pretty common these days and many companies already have a template for this" If they want to document your lack of performance to give them a reason to fire you with cause. – nick012000 Jan 2 at 4:56
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Even the most employee-centric companies are still focused on getting work done, at the end of the day. While it's nice when employers help you grow, that is almost universally a secondary goal, at best.

It sounds like you have an idea of the direction you want to develop in, which is a good starting point. But, you need to make sure that growth fits with your boss's perception of the company needs. This emphasis is important - the "technical debt" you see may or may not be a priority to your leadership. If you approach this by suggesting that your boss let you work on something he sees as unimportant, as a way of growing a skill he doesn't think you need, you should not be surprised when he turns you down.

So, how do you overcome that? Since you already have an idea of how you want to grow, the next important step is to re-think that plan, from your boss's perspective.

Pay attention to the things your boss stresses over, or the things he emphasizes as issues. Ask for his input on what the biggest upcoming challenges will be. Actively seek to understand the perspective that your plan will be judged against.

Once you've done your research, re-frame your plan in a way that makes sense according to what your boss sees as issues and opportunities. Basically, what it boils down to is this: If you tell him a plan for getting what you want, you may get turned down. But if you can tell him a plan for getting what he wants, you will be more likely to have success.

And - as a caveat to all of that, consider the potential that the company may not think it actually needs someone with the skill set you're trying to grow. Developers are often focused on learning specific technologies, or learning new frameworks, while employers just want to get work done. If this employer doesn't have a place for the skill set you want to grow, then your best outcome may indeed be by switching employers. But if you do decide to do that, make sure you carefully consider the things that are important to you (i.e. growth opportunities in a certain area). And then, when you interview for your next job, make sure you ask questions about those things, so you can be sure you will select an employer who can give you what you want. A worst-case outcome in your situation would be to leave this employer and end up at another one who is also unsupportive of your desire to grow.

1

I want to work on a lot of changes that can be made in our process that even him knows that we do really bad and causes a lot of issues.

This bit should be possible. Write up a short email (no more than one page if it were printed) explaining the problem and how much time/money it wastes. Explain your solution and estimate how long it would take. Finally divide one number by the other to calculate how long how long the investment will take to pay for itself, because that's the bit your manager will be most interested in.

If there are several processes that you'd like to improve, your boss can check that he agrees with your assessment of the situation and pick the one with the best return-on-investment, and schedule it for a suitable time.

Basically, you offer him something that benefits him and the company, rather than just ask for something that's a benefit to you.

0

Solving technical debts doesn't earn money for your employer. Customers pay for new features, not to have the code refactored a bit behind the scenes, in a way that has no visible effect. You may just have to learn to live with that.

And definitely don't tell your manager that you want to learn more so that you can leave and get a better job elsewhere.

  • I didn't go into details but I want to work towards our day by day problems, focused on DevOps and CI which we lack a lot, surely it's nothing costumers will see, but if I can reduce the time spent with some usual tasks and improve as a professional, that's perfect for me and should help the company IMHO. I wouldn't search for another job in that scenario. – DH. Dec 30 '19 at 19:08

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