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I am 22 years old and I started full time at a company in Boston (500+ employees) late September this year after doing two internships for them in the past. I know everybody and I am on good terms with everybody. At the end of my 2nd internship, I signed an offer letter that would make me a Junior Software Engineer in late September.

Here is the situation I am in. On my first day, expecting to dive into code, my manager came up to me and said that one person on the release team (Subversion, Linux, Networking etc.) had quit. Since the company is on a hiring freeze, my manager sent me "on loan" to the release team. This team is now made up of three people including me. This is something I know very little about but I am busting my butt and being a team player. My manager said this would be a 5 month thing until they hire someone after the new year.

Here's were the situation get more juicy. Yesterday I found out that the middle man, the person between me and my boss is quitting. Now the team is down to the release lead and I. Obviously this will probably lengthen my stay on this team which I desperately do not want to do.

Sorry for the introduction. This company is a great company, I love it. But for some reason the release team is obviously having some problems.

But how do I talk to my manager in a professional way about these points.

  • I do not like what I am doing and this is not what I signed up for. (My manager obviously knows the latter)
  • I do not want the action of quitting by of the 2nd person on the release team to lengthen my stay on this team.
  • And to my knowledge, Release Engineers make a bit more than Junior Software Engineers. Should I bring this up?

It would be greatly appreciated if anyone could help me out. I'm a little over 2 months into my full time career and I'm already faced with a crap scenario.

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    Definitely an opportunity to really round out your skill set right off the bat. Stick it out, I wish I'd had more real world deployment experience at the beginning. – Andrew Bartel Nov 7 '13 at 16:23
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    @ZH123 - The world will never be what you want it or expect it to be. I got a degree in audio engineering and now I make products for the deaf. :) No related experience will ever be useless. Knowing the pieces that abut development can only help you. Touch base with your manager for 20 minutes once a month, let him know how things are going, and politely remind him that you want to return to the development job you signed on for. You're both just trying to make things work in a difficult situation. He'll respect your candor and patience (hopefully). – Wesley Long Nov 7 '13 at 16:54
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I agree that this is not an ideal situation, but in your particular case you could look at it like a very good resume-building opportunity. The "DevOps" specialization is a very hot field. From this article:

There’s no formal career track for becoming a DevOps engineer. They are either developers who get interested in deployment and network operations, or sysadmins who have a passion for scripting and coding, and move into the development side where they can improve the planning of test and deployment. Either way, these are people who have pushed beyond their defined areas of competence and who have a more holistic view of their technical environments.

I'd advise continuing your "team player" approach and you'll make allies in this department. As you mentioned, you have other allies in other departments when the time comes to transfer back to software development.

Once it becomes public that the other team member is leaving, say something to your manager like "as you know, long term I really want to get back to my original field, but in the meantime I'll do everything I can to help you out during this transition time". You don't know yet whether they'll ask you to stay longer than 5-6 months, so don't force that conversation when they haven't brought it up.

As a manager, employees who've shown the ability to step into other roles as needed were more valuable to me than those who are only willing to do exactly what's on their job description. This kind of reputation will bring more benefit to your career long term than whether you spend 5 months vs. 9 months in this temporary role.

Generalizing further: (I realize this question & answer is almost too specific for the site rules): when starting out in your career, as long as the role is at least related to your desired field, you gain more through reputation as "quick learner", "team player", etc. than you do through forcing the company to give you work that exactly fits your desired career path.

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    I agree with you 100% but I do want to return back to the middleware side of things. My manager agreed around 6 months and I agreed to that too. I think 6 months would be enough, at least for me in my early of a career, to build my resume. I just don't want this going on for longer than that. – ZH123 Nov 7 '13 at 15:52
  • So you're saying own up for the leave of the 2nd employee and stay longer, rather than saying I only want to stay the agreed upon amount of time? – ZH123 Nov 7 '13 at 15:58
  • @ZH123 see edit – explunit Nov 7 '13 at 16:11
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    This helps a lot. Thank you! And thank you for not closing/holding this question for being too specific. It has really helped me! – ZH123 Nov 7 '13 at 16:13
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This is a great opportunity to learn to care about code quality, release processes, passing unit tests, and your firm's architecture. It strongly positions you to be quite invaluable to the firm as a lead programmer.

It's very important to continue to work on your software development skills. Learn to use your unit-testing module to write specifications for APIs. If you can spare the time, volunteer for your local language user-group or meetup group and teach others learning the language.

Learn best practices around your firms' primary language. Read the code, especially the diffs, that you're being asked to push. Be humble, but ask questions, and give push-back on things that seem sketchy (if you're really confident they're sketchy). Escalate when necessary.

A similar thing happened to me, I was immediately given a release manager role, where my job was to approve Python code. I started out rubber-stamping releases, and realized I couldn't keep doing that when I read our docs that said I'm responsible for them. So I began doing what I describe above, while participating on other in-firm development projects, and demonstrating competence where others were mentally lazy. I was then plucked out to set up a support desk for the core tech while leading the portal setup, and now I am working on core technology and our software development lifecycle for the firm.

Use this as an opportunity to create a platform for your continued success. If you get an offer for significantly more from another firm, no one will blame you for leaving, but until that time, demonstrate you're a team player, grow your reputation for competence, and you'll soon be the ideal person that they want in the role that you want to be in.

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Employers expect flexibility from their employees, some don't hire on specific skills precisely because they want to avoid the 'that isn't my job' mindset. If you like the employer, learn the process. As a coder, you will soon understand why deployment people give you dirty looks for certain kinds of programming habits, such as documentation (or lack thereof), 'drop/create' database stored procedures (loses all the rights, in comparison to 'alter', where roles and grants are preserved), half-baked deployment packages, etc. Your work associates are dropping like flies because they don't have any more enthusiasm than you do.

I would lean on the boss for more money. However, doing so locks you in tighter - now you're out of band so they can yank you around even more. You'll be steaming all the way to the bank.

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This is not uncommon. The good thing is you got an offer. The other good thing is that if you plan on being a long term employee at this company you can demonstrate your ability to be a team player and to be flexible in the work you do.

But your big question is most likely: "How do I get out of this role and back into software developement?"

Well, it may take a while. I would talk frequently to your manager regarding opportunities for short programming tasks that you could do in addition to your current role. Perhaps doing so will cause others to see you as someone who should be writing software and then eventually you can be officially moved out of your current role. It will probably take longer than you like but may be worth it.

If you are concerned that you are going to lose your programming skills then you may need to start looking for employment elsewhere.

I think it all boils down to - how much do you love this company that you are working for?

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As a new hire, it's not unusual to discuss training. In your case, do talk about relevant software engineering training. Investing in you means that the company gets a financial stake in your future career as a software engineer. They're not really in a position right now to refuse, and even so you're making only reasonable demands.

The negotiation strategy here is that they could afford to ignore their promises, because they had no investments at stake. This proposal changes that.

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I have to warn you though, that it is very easy to fall "out" of the Software Engineer pool. I also have a very similar history to you, and after 2 years, I feel it will be extremely difficult to be transferred back to the software team - not to mention the 10 new developers they hired meanwhile - and it will be a huge undertaking to convince management you still "have it" in terms of salaried software development, after 2 years in a different team in the same company. The work still contains light programming, but is mostly not really about full-on programming (more about business rules and B2B).

Edit: In my experience (I'm still in the same situation), it will be very difficult to get back to the team. Perhaps this depends on the company, but in my case there has been no progress towards getting back to the development team after multiple requests to my boss and marking the desire to our bi-annual personal development review form.

My current team has 8 people in total, so I can imagine your case of just two people! It will likely be very difficult to transition back to development. So from my experience, the only option (after talking with your boss) to move back to development is to change your job. It seems unlikely you will truly be considered to be moved back to development in your current company.

Perhaps, if your company has multiple offices, you could apply for a development job in another office/city within the same company?

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    This is a great comment but it does not really asnwer the question – IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 27 '14 at 17:13
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    Hello Juha. Our Q&A site put in place some back it up guidelines to help get the best answers. Can you edit your post to include references or relate this to a personal experience. You've alluded to having been in a similar situation, so expanding on that would be a good start. Also, be sure to answer the full question. Good luck! :) – jmort253 Feb 28 '14 at 2:00

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