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I'm the only developer at a computer repair company working on a web application for the company, which will also be sold to other companies for them to use. Which is great, except for a couple things:

  1. I'm on an apprenticeship at this company so I am learning whilst working at the same time (although the apprenticeship content is lower level than my actual knowledge for the most part).

  2. This is my first ever software development job + I've never developed a web application before. However, despite my multiple requests for a second software developer to help, I'm just told that "once this is released, we will have the money for that".

  3. They want it in an unreasonable deadline, at least for me. I don't know if it would be reasonable for others but they say they want it by the end of September and I don't think I can hit that (I've been working on it for about a month already.)

So my question is.. what should I do? If there even is anything I can do?

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  • Have you expressed to your boss that the deadline is unreasonable?
    – sf02
    Jul 20, 2022 at 15:53
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    @sf02 I have, and he's moved it back a couple times but not enough for it to actually be a reasonable deadline. Plus, even if it was, I don't know if I'm even capable of doing what they want to the standard they want
    – Basil
    Jul 20, 2022 at 15:56
  • You said you are an apprentice. Can you add a country tag, so we know what that means exactly? It differs from country to country who you can or should talk to first.
    – nvoigt
    Jul 20, 2022 at 16:09
  • Why the downvotes?
    – rivu
    Jul 20, 2022 at 18:10
  • My experience with companies like this is that they will fail badly even if they have the product complete and working. I worked for a company like this where we finished the product, got a large contract, and then they tried to service the contract on a shoestring budget (when they could easily have used the large contract to raise money) and they also screwed up lots of critical things like their contracts with their investors because they used cheap lawyers and cookie cutter contracts. The project is almost certainly doomed. (Watch for them to stop paying you with excuses.) Jul 23, 2022 at 9:10

2 Answers 2

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Good, you are learning an important lesson (which is what your role as an apprentice is (or should be)).

People who are not experienced devs/supernerds do not understand how long things take.

relevant xkcd

Do not worry, this does not mean you did something wrong. This is completely normal and to be expected.

"once this is released, we will have the money for that".

That sounds like the company is broke, and it is somehow your responsibility to save it. It is not.

Any company expecting an apprentice to deliver a product that can be sold is a badly ran company. Apprentices are, by definition, not experienced enough to do that.

You can break up the goal into subtasks and make a list of them (or a Jira or Kanban board). Do not let them pressure you into giving a timeline or even a guess when the project will be finished. You do not know because you cannot know. You can email a link to this todo-list/jira/whatever to management. They probably won't even bother to look at it.

Tell them you'll do as much as you can, but you do not know when it will be finished, that you worry you won't be able to meet their deadline, and that it is likely that you'll need help on certain aspects in order to complete the project. Make sure that you have that on record (email is usually best) This may be important in the future.

When they ask you if the project is finished, show them the todolist/jira/kanban, and remind them you emailed them about it. You could point to items on Jira and explain you need another dev for those specific tasks, which makes it easier for them to understand.

In your next role, use Expectation Management techniques to avoid this situation. Google something like "expectation management dev" for more info.

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    I was in the same position when I was an apprentice - the thing I was lacking was high-level traceability (not git commits or tickets, but simply a string of emails containing the information I shared with my boss verbally). It came back to bite me in the end, and I had to retrace every ticket, git commit, and even slack/discord/teams message, and fill up an enormous spreadsheet to prove that I was in fact working (it took me 2 weeks). Don't forget you're learning, and you're not supposed to actually produce any value at all. If you can't do it in time, it's not your problem, it's theirs.
    – J. Quick
    Jul 22, 2022 at 12:52
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  1. That doesn't sound like an issue. If you are mostly beyond what you are learning, if I understand what you're saying here, then you should be good.

  2. Ok, so it would be nice to have help but that's not possible right now. Do what you can, that's really all that is possible.

  3. This is the real problem in my view. Here you need to do more than just say "that's unreasonable" to your management. You need to break the project down into tasks and assign a level of effort (hours, days, weeks, months, whatever) and put all this into an Excel worksheet. Now you can generate a schedule for when each of these tasks are able to be completed. If your company has project planning software available that would be nice but that may have a steep learning curve with it.

Basically you cannot produce more than you can. That should be obvious to your management but it's possible they haven't thought about this the way you have. Or perhaps you have over-estimated the scope and it really can be done in the requested time-frame. But you won't know where you stand until you plan it out.

Here is a rule that one of my early mentors taught me and you will find some variation of this in nearly every "business" book:

"Don't go to management with problems, go with solutions!"

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    If OP is an apprentice who has never developed a web application before, how can OP break the project down in tasks and predict what a reasonable time frame would be? Even people with a fuckton of experience often fail to predict how much time a task would take... Every time someone asks me to predict how much time a task would take I triple the number I have in my head, and even that strategy has failed me sometimes. I might be able to estimate how long a task takes if I've done it dozens of times, but estimating how long it takes to learn to do something completely new is often impossible.
    – user135112
    Jul 20, 2022 at 17:48
  • @Gantendo As with any estimating it's an estimate. You have to take your best guess based on what you know and, as you note, add some padding in for the things you don't know at the time.
    – jwh20
    Jul 20, 2022 at 19:45
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    Jwh20: And then you need a boss who can understand what an estimate is. Good luck.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 20, 2022 at 20:45
  • @gnasher729 Yes, quite true. But the OP is not asking about how to deal with a manager who cannot understand an estimate.
    – jwh20
    Jul 21, 2022 at 12:57

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