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For context I'm a .Net Senior Software Engineer and Team lead. I recently started my current position and the majority of my team members are performing well. However, due to the general shortage of .Net developers our dev manager decided to hire a Java developer with limited SE experience, no prior mentorship and no training or experience with any of our tech stack's languages or tools.

If they had hired them as a Junior SE I wouldn't be having a problem but because they technically had 2-3 years Java experience (albeit with no one to mentor or train them during that time) they were hired as a mid level developer.

My problem is that management is expecting their output to match that of a mid level developer despite a lack of relevant training or experience. They have only been with us for 3 months, and before I was made their team lead, the prior lead reported to management that they didn't think they were passionate enough about programming and that they weren't learning fast enough.

They are close to reaching the expected capacity for a mid level developer and is retaining things they learn, which does justify their being a mid level SE. They also have one of the best attitudes I've ever encountered and is easy to teach and work with, but their reputation has already taken a hit.

How can I approach resetting management's expectations and opinions about this team member?

2 Answers 2

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You do it just as you did here. You explain the situation, indicate that this person was not set up to succeed, and that they're showing progress.

It would help to show metrics that are reasonable comparisons that would indicate that while on boarding has been slower or has not been slower than should have been expected. After that, it's about timelines for when to expect full contribution.

Advise this person to keep an "I love me" file with their specific achievements in it. When performance review time comes up, it will help counter negative perceptions.

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  • I like the I love me file suggestion, I think that's a very positive approach to the problem and avoids having to point out the failings of the prior team lead who was setting them up to fail. Where might you suggest locating data to support arguments for expecting a longer on boarding period? A few short weeks before full capacity seems far to short to me, especially for non-seniors.
    – Dale Flamm
    Mar 10 at 20:25
  • I would start with any work tracking system being used. Clearly there are work items to be accomplished and those should be managed through a tool. A good one will let you observe cycle time on items, and you should see a steady improvement. Mar 11 at 0:27
  • I have seen several managers with very bad attitude, that actually cripple employee rep for several years following transfer. All you can do is as this answer, challenge, good review and actual measurable deliverables on record
    – Strader
    Mar 11 at 21:43
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Curious to learn what your DEV managers role is in this company? You're being asked to do what a people manager is supposed to do. In an upcoming 1:1, it'd be good to ask your DEV manager, what they are doing to improve the employees throughput.

With that, a few tactics you can take with this SE:

  • Ask the new employee how they think they are performing. If they are self-aware and say poorly, this is good. Just ask them where they get stuck at times and build from there. Do this per work item. Where did you get tripped up here? Anything we could do when setting up this work to make it clearly? Requirements? A pointer to where to get started in the code base? Etc. If they think they are doing great, this will be a harder conversation but it's better to set the record straight than let it linger. Your mental health will improve, albeit this is your DEV managers job.
  • This person could follow-up with, "well what are the expectations?" Punt on that an just redirect them to how to get better. Leave that to management.
  • Document this conversation with the SE and take data back to your manager after you and the new SE reflect on a few previous work items. This will demonstrate all that you are doing to support the new employee. Even if that employee doesn't improve, you have a proven track record of trying to help. You might even put this in email to your manager should some other leader, potentially more senior, come along asking for details to show you are informing your manager and clearly working with this new employee.

Godspeed.

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