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Ive been a PHP developer for the last 15+ years and feel I have gained a lot of experience doing backend development, with some front end.

My current company employed me 3 years ago as a Full Stack Developer and Ive been working on one of their products using PHP since I started with them.

When I joined them I took a step down from Senior Dev to simply Dev in order to join them. My focus in the last three years has been/was to grow and improve the product I was on and work my way back up to Senior within the company.

Having finished a major upgrade of that PHP product they then decided to put me on a new green field product recently. This product uses a whole host of technologies I have zero experience with (Amazon Connect, JFrog, CI/CD deployment scripting in Gitlab, React with Typescript et. al.) I have never used any of these.

I am in a team of about 7 people and am the one with the least experience in said technologies. I was also only notified 1 week prior to the start of the project that I was on it.

Needless to say the progress has been slow and stressful, having not been given any formal training and the time lines for the first release at the start was only 3 months.

I raised my concerns with my line manager along the lines of:

I said it would have been better if they had notified me some time beforehand so that I could self train myself (In the absence of been provided training during company hours) to get some fundamental knowledge of react etc under my belt beforehand.

Note the company is short staffed as we have had a lot of people leave in the last year and those people have not been replaced. This is possibly why I was asked to move to this project as they are short of developers.

My line manager agreed with me, as did a few other colleagues that I spoke to and this was brought to the CTO. He spoke to me about my concerns and his words were (Paraphrasing) "If you are anything like me, I prefer learning on a real world project and on the job", akin to providing lip service I felt.

Essentially I am struggling to get work done, there is one experienced React dev on the team whom has been helpful but he has churned out most of the more complicated components etc and Ive spent my time getting mostly just working on the deployment scripts working and turning out the low hanging fruit of the react app.

This has let me to now start questioning my future at the company as they have basically set me back in my quest for a Senior position as I am back down to Junior level in this new team due to my lack of experience in the technologies.

My questions are:

  1. Is this normal to ask Software developers to make such a huge change in skill set. Especially with minimal / no training and expect results with such a short timeframe?
  2. Am I wrong in thinking this sets back my progress with regard to wanting to become a Senior developer?

Please note my Line manager has supported my views and there have been no complaints about the work I have produced.

My concern is I am been asked to throw away all my previous PHP experience.

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  • The CTO is right up to a point; if they are asking you to learn a new skill it should be on their time not yours. However he didn't address the basic problem of you being dumped onto an unsuitable project. Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 11:37
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    StackExchange says you are a new contributor here, but you have 15 years of experience as a software developer. You stated that you have "not been given any formal training" - As you progress in your field you will find that formal training is rare. To stay relevant, every professional pursues new skills on their own; In software development this is especially important. I will recommend that you read "The Pragmatic Programmer" to get a feel for the broader field of software development. You should be most afraid of your career progression when you get comfortable.
    – djhallx
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 13:12
  • Are that not trying to hire replacements or are they struggling to find candidates?
    – cdkMoose
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 13:18
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    What does "senior" actually mean? And what does it mean to you? Why do you think learning new technologies is detrimental to you becoming (more?) senior?
    – mrodo
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 15:47
  • This may come as a surprise, but you are not employed to write PHP - or any kind of code for that matter. You're employed to solve valuable problems that the customer will pay for... and it just so happens that code is the world's best tool for solving problems, and PHP is (I presume) an effective way of making websites that customers will pay for. So, great, your skills enable you to solve valuable problems. But now there's a different problem the company needs solving and they want you to do it? OK. Solve that. Can't or won't? There are still options, but they do get narrower quite quickly. Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 12:44

4 Answers 4

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Am I wrong in thinking this sets back my progress with regard to wanting to become a Senior developer?

Actually (depending on what you mean by "senior developer"), this is not only not a setback, it's a massive opportunity.

A senior developer is not (only) an expert in one specific tool stack.

A senior developer is someone who can (among other things) solve problems using their knowledge and experience of how to make software, and can quickly learn how to apply the appropriate principles in the stack they need to use for the project they are currently working on.

Internal company pay scales may not reflect this, but if you embrace this opportunity you'll be doing yourself (and your career) a huge favour.

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    I once saw an interview question that asked for "production ready" code. A senior developer will have an understanding of what that means and probably deliver something you'd be comfortable shipping, a junior developer probably not. Just as an example of your point
    – bytepusher
    Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 0:29
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Is it normal sometimes for companies to ask employees to do a complete skill change?

It is normal for companies to ask employees to perform tasks that they originally were not hired to do. As time goes on, priorities change and rather than fire/hire employees for every new project it usually makes more business sense to use the available talent, even if that means some early growing pains.

Also, don't confuse skills with tools.

PHP is a tool, your skill as a developer is problem solving. You are now being asked to solve problems with a different (unfamiliar) set of tools. Embrace the opportunity to learn new technologies as it is something you can add to your resume and make you more hirable should you decide to move on from this company.

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    It's been my observation that those who define themselves by the tools they use or (even worse) the systems they support are often the first to be passed over for promotions or let go. A mentor once gave me good advice, "When presented with an opportunity (i.e. problem), always say YES!" He noted that it doesn't matter if you succeed or fail, people just remember you as the one who was willing.
    – jwh20
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 12:58
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    @JACZA, you can look at it this way: the company you work for has enough faith in your skills that they moved you into a project where they knew you had zero experience. Apparently that wasn't concerning to them. They probably believe you will learn just fine. Take that is a compliment. Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 13:09
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Companies want their people to do whatever work they have a need for. That's normal enough. They may not have a PHP project, or they may have some but want other people working on them. It's really up to them in broad strokes.

If you don't want to change then you can always move on.

The fact that they're not replacing staff is a bit of a worry concerning the companies long term viability.

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If the company changes your job to something you don’t like, then it is very likely that another company has a better job for you. Take it as an opportunity to find a better position. If it’s halfway interesting then take the time you stay as free learning time.

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