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I am a software engineer, and the 6 month probation is due in mid-March, I believe. I have some concerns about this, and paranoid that I will be told to leave.

I am not a software engineer by training, I was a Physics and Electronics Engineering major. I had good grades initially, but towards the end, I started experiencing significant personal issues, and failed several elective subjects (which are designed to make the University money, everyone knows this), like Sociology and Astrophysics, bringing my GPA down to 2.8/4. Without these, my GPA would be around 3.3. I could have applied for a "withdrawal without penalty", and was told it most likely would have been accepted, however I failed to do so, due to the chaos at the time. Due to the bureaucracy, it is unlikely they will accept this now, due to the length of time that has passed. I was hired without them asking me for my transcript, only my degree testamur. This was one of the few jobs that did not require any prior experience, so I have great concerns about what will happen if I'm told to leave. I am 24 years of age, and I'm at a point in my career I should have been was I was 22.

I have had virtually no formal feedback during this period, positive or negative. I have made a few rookie mistakes, but have tried to learn from them, but I doubt they have seen this. The only thing I have been offered is "tips and tricks" in Visual Studio, and how to use yield and IEnumerable properly in C#, and to use arguments in console applications instead of menus, things like that.

I have been given programming tasks during this time, and tried to complete them as best I can. However, it always seems like it takes me longer to complete tasks than I think it should. I would go in the morning, aiming to finish a particular feature in a day or two, and it ends up taking me a week or more. I only started coding properly about 1-2 years ago, so maybe I don't have enough experience to make judgements on how long it should take.

So far, I have not really been involved in the design reports that the rest of my team have been working on, I have merely been writing several command-line tools to process documents, which speed up the submission process, and also assisted in adding features to the client side of an application which handles project assets. Apart from that, there was a small amount of SQL scripting to assist another team, which was on and off. It feels like I should have more to show for 6 months of work, but these were the tasks I was given.

At the end of last year and early this year, I was told I was picked to be responsible (along with a colleague of mine) for a particular design. There was a meeting with the client in December, which I attended for my knowledge. There was an agreement that a ConOps was needed, but it has not happened yet. It was due in early March, but it has been postponed to a month after whenever ConOps is held. At the weekly standup recently, I was told "you are going to be the main one responsible for this". Is this a sign they intend to keep me post-probation?

The biggest concern I have: we have a monthly team-wide progress meeting for the entire project, with dozens of people. At the most recent one, the project director mentioned performance reviews, but he said these were for people who have been with the company for >6 months. I have not yet reached this milestone (it is several weeks away), but I have still been asked to complete the self-evaluation form. Is this a bad sign? In this form, there are sections for time management, quality of work, knowledge, communication, etc, to be marked 0-10. I have concerns about my progress, but don't want to seem too negative. How should this be approached?

The question: With the above in mind, what should I realistically expect to be the outcome of probation?

  • If your review is being done next month, them starting to gather information for it now - like your self evaluation - is perfectly normal. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Feb 20 at 11:27
  • @DanisFiddlingbyFirelight how should I fill out the self-evaluation to show them I am able to identify my shortcomings, and willing to address them, without sounding too negative? Would rating myself <5 for any category hurt me? – Al2110 Feb 20 at 11:33
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    @Al2110 Do you know what 0 or 10 means in this rating system ? If not you should ask, 5 could be "Doing what is expected for the role", 10 being "Outstanding performances" – ClmentM Feb 20 at 11:37
  • @ClmentM 0-3 is "Poor", 4-6 is "Average", 7-8 is "Good", 9-10 is "Excellent". – Al2110 Feb 20 at 11:41
  • Absolutely nobody cares about your college GPA anymore. There's also not that big of a difference between where you are at 24 vs. where you would be at 22. None of this has to do with the work that you've been hired to do. You should stop worrying about all of that. – Joe Feb 20 at 15:16
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I think you're worrying unnecessarily. If your boss had serious issues with your work, they should have told you long ago. Most likely, your boss just has a lot of other things to worry about and has no complaints.

It feels like I should have more to show for 6 months of work

No, even an experienced developer takes months to produce anything significant in a new company. Junior devs are given minor tasks around the edges because it takes ages to learn your way around a big project. Don't evaluate your progress based what you've produced, but how much of the company code and processes you now understand.

maybe I don't have enough experience to make judgements on how long it should take

Exactly. Track how long you actually take vs your initial estimate. Next time a feature feels like 1 day of work, realise that it feels about as complex as the previous task that you also estimated at 1 day, but actually took a week, and realise that all the same unexpected stuff will probably happen here, and it probably will also take a week. Estimation is really hard, even for experienced devs, but it helps to compare to previous tasks.

I was told "you are going to be the main one responsible for this". Is this a sign they intend to keep me post-probation?

Yes. This person expects you to still be around, and trusts you to do the work. Don't worry if the plan changes and that job gets cancelled or delayed.

how should I fill out the self-evaluation

Be honest. If you feel like you need help in any area, ask for it. Your company may have training courses or books. Don't put 'poor' in any category, because your boss would have told you if you were that bad.

It sounds like the main thing for this meeting is to ask for more feedback. Ask if you're meeting the standards, and how you can improve. Your boss has failed here, but make it sound like a request and a desire to improve.

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  • Thank you for your input. One other thing I noticed, there is a similar position in the company now being advertised, which sparked some panic that they are looking for a replacement. It is also a "Junior" role, but it requires 2 years of experience, and is a higher pay grade than mine. – Al2110 Feb 20 at 12:44
  • It's extremely unlikely that you are so important that they have to keep you working until they can replace you without warning. '2 years' is an indication of how long it takes a junior to become really productive. – Robin Bennett Feb 20 at 12:55
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Don't worry, you're doing fine.

it always seems like it takes me longer to complete tasks than I think it should

6 month probation

All of this is very common, even standard experience of a junior developer. Keep improving, focus on the task you're given, don't worry, you're doing fine.

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  • When I think about what I have produced in that time, it concerns me. Several command line tools (about 1000 lines of code each), a few forms and associated code in the GUI application, some SQL scripts that were used once, some small pieces of documentation on the company site for the tools which few people refer to, and an architecture diagram for a design in Visio, which I feel is a trivial contribution. – Al2110 Feb 20 at 12:16

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