I started working at my current company earlier this year, and I'm concerned that I am wildly unqualified for the role.
In the part of the world where I live and work, the standard practice is to apply to a company (not to a role). In the interviews the company and candidate "get to know" one another, and there will of course be discussion of what sorts of skills the candidate has, as well as what sorts of work are available at the company. But it's not at all strange for a candidate to not know what department they'll be working in before their first day. (Although generally placement will be made after training and evaluation in the first few weeks. I assume that this usually results in a fairly good match, since it is still so widespread).
I applied to my current company because of my interest in their field, and in the interviews I received a very favourable impression of their culture.
They seemed interested in my work history with data analysis. And they asked whether I knew any Python, to which I responded that I had studied a bit, privately and not in connection with my previous position.
I was glad to receive an offer, although it only enumerated where my position would fit into their hierarchy. I nevertheless thought I had a fairly decent idea what my work would entail, and this all seemed natural for this part of the world.
I discovered on day one that I was to be a data scientist. And, what is more, the only data scientist in the company. I am the entire department.
I am not a data scientist. I'm mathematically literate. I took calculus and physics in college. And I'm quite good with computers (as a consumer). I understand programming structures, and how computers access and use data. But all as a layman. I have a few years experience in data analysis, but this was a completely backwards company that had their entire data base saved in excel files with filenames incremented for each year-month, going back twenty years. And I've taken an introductory course on data science and programming in Python, SQL, and R, but this was just introductory.
The company seems to have understood when hiring me that I was not a data scientist, but they intended that I would become one. How they imagined this would happen is an open question, because there are no training programs or experienced colleagues to guide me, and there is the constant expectation of output, by means of actionable reports.
I've done my best. I've made a training plan, and studied the contents of Hadley Wickham's "R for Data Science" and "Advanced R" books. And I've kept up my output, turning in reports that (apparently) look like data science, but which amount to "here's a graph of sales by month, with a trend line. Here it is by product tag. Here it is by category."
Admittedly, the company has not done well with communicating what they want from any given analysis. It's instead been a continuous repeat of "here's a set of sales figures and dates. Do analysis." And despite my attempts to wring out what exactly their questions or interests in this data is, or to acquire more or more useful data, there doesn't yet seem to be much chance of improvement.
So far my work has achieved absolutely nothing. Nothing I've submitted has had any impact on the company's future direction or current actions. And although it can't be said that I've made no progress in developing my skills, this really isn't the way to go about training a functional data scientist. They've been wasting their money on me.
And yet they don't seem to realize it, or not to care. Both my immediate supervisor and the president of the company are very interested in what data science can offer, and very eager to know what sorts of things I'm working on, but they don't know nearly enough to accurately judge a data scientist's skills or output. And they're (so far) perfectly happy with what I've been outputting, despite it changing nothing.
I feel terrified, both morally and personally, that this is wrong, and that it's going to explode in my face before long. I'm not contributing, and so I'm getting paid as if under false pretenses. I'm not comfortable with this. And personally, I'm not getting any meaningful experience. I'm not meaningfully developing as a professional, and if they ever wake up and fire me, or I grow a spine and quit (as I fear, morally, I really ought to), then I'll have wasted my time completely, and be that much worse off trying to find another job.
I've told the company, three times now, to three different people (including HR and my immediate supervisor), that I'm not confident that I'm doing good work. That I'm not confident that I have the skills necessary for this position. And that the best piece of analysis that I can give them is that they should save my salary by getting rid of me, and then hiring an experienced actual data scientist. But they take the position that everything's fine, and they know it'll take time to get used to things, and all of that. But my sense continues to grow that they just really don't understand how untoward this situation is.
I don't know what to do. Both morally, as a person who want to do the right thing yet feels horribly in the wrong. And personally, as a person who has to keep making a living and having a career of some sort, and who might just be digging their own grave.
I know that other questions have been asked regarding feeling unqualified for a position, but I believe there are two main differences between this question and those.
・Firstly, the answers to those questions have often been "Actually, you're completely qualified! Pat yourself on the back and relax." I am completely confident that this is not the case in my situation. Perhaps I am mistaken, but this question will take it as a given that the employee in question (namely, me) is unqualified.
・Secondly, in this case the unqualified person makes up the entire department, and there is therefore no one in the company with the expertise to properly evaluate their skills.