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I work in a medium-sized tech company (~100 employees) as a developer. I work with product owners, QA analysts, and Devops, and we're all under the supervision of a few managers. Historically, those managers were dealing with the orchestration of our teams so that projects were kept on track, and where rather deeply implicated into each project, sometime knowing precise details about what each employee was working on.

Not so long ago, you could say that I have "just a developer", as I could focus on programming new features, fixing bugs, discussing design decisions with my peers, etc. I was basically either writing code or debating technicalities, with a few meetings here and there about the advancement of projects.

The developer team recently had a rapid growth (it basically doubled in size) about the same time we needed to work from home because of COVID-19. Those events correlated with a significant change in the way "senior" developers (the half of the team that is not a new hire) need to work: everything that worked "magically" to keep projects on track don't work anymore unless we take the initiative to take care of it. I was assigned to onboard one of the new developer, and I need to chose what work to give to him. I'm making timelines for the advancement of my project so that it complies with deadlines, setting up meetings with PO and Devops to take care of spec changes and infrastructure requirements, reading and writing emails about stuff that I notice and that needs to be dealt with, coordinating stuff with QA, and so on.

This actually consumes much time, so much in fact that my programming time has been significantly reduced. For this reason everytime I assess the time it will take to accomplish a programming task, I inflate it, because I know the time spent coding this task will only be one part of my time, sometimes just a small part.

Meanwhile, I don't really know what our managers do, since they're clearly not as involved in the projects as they were before. They seem to be busy with other management stuff, because their calendar is always full of meetings. As for the new hires, they're producing so much code so fast I don't have enough time to review it (which is sad, because as they're inexperienced, review is crucial).

What I'm trying to understand is how close or far this situation is from nominal operation in a tech company of this size. I don't want to whine about having more "responsibilities", which, in a way, seems like a natural progression. On the other hand, it really seems that I'm drifting off my natural and official set of skills.

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This is common enough not to be described as a phenomenon. It sound really as if things are just a little unbalanced, and leadership is either not aware of it or has no capacity at the current time to correct it. These kinds of shifts are to be expected where you will be expected to take on new responsibilities for (sometimes) the wrong reasons.

You won't be whining by bringing it up really. Mentioning that it is a problem, and it feels like the entire department could use a shift in some way to accommodate for these new responsibilities is what I would expect my senior engineers to do. As a leader, I can't know what to fix if they won't communicate what their problems are.

If your team is implementing scrum, you should be bringing this up in retros. If you have an opportunity to speak with your manager one on one, you should bring it up with them in a factual manner. "I've been needing to do tasks x, y, and z since we brought on the new folks, and it has diminished my velocity and productivity. I think we could use help in the form of [job placement]. I want to help my team be successful, and I think my greatest contribution is [what you're supposed to be doing]."

You might get told that it's just the way things are now. There might not be budget to bring in new headcount. Even if headcount is removed, management may not get it back from executive leadership. Be ready to be ok with that.

The only thing you should expect coming out of any such meeting is a clear understanding of what your manager expects of you in the job you're doing. It just might be that their needs take you away from what you want to be doing. I have an engineer today who wants to be doing machine learning. I don't have any machine learning projects in my pipeline so I have him doing standard software development. We talk about it regularly though, and if it comes time for him to make a choice on his career that takes him away from us, I will happily help him get there. I will miss his contributions, and I will celebrate him moving on. He and I are always clear on what our expectations are, and we communicate fairly regularly.

  • If I had a dollar for every question on workplace where the answer was as simple as you need to have "a clear understanding of what your manager expects of you in the job you're doing" I'd be on a beach somewhere an not browsing workplace. – dan.m was user2321368 Aug 18 '20 at 3:20
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    @dan.mwasuser2321368: The words are much simpler than the concept. There are a great many people who are content to go around the workplace hampered by their own assumptions and creating stories in their own minds when a simple (and I do mean simple) conversation would eliminate so much of it. Just because it's a common refrain doesn't mean it's wrong. People should expect more from their managers, and they should communicate that. Managers should expect specific things from their directs, and those expectations should never be a mystery. – Joel Etherton Aug 18 '20 at 4:25

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