TL;DR: My team's planning and software development practices are awful. I want to do ML research but painted myself into a corner by taking the lead on development instead. Things are improving too slowly. Should I try to solve it or leave?
I'm a junior in a small R&D team. I have a computer science/data science degree, and my goal is to get machine learning experience to get into research positions, maybe get a PhD when I feel ready. I was employed with the promise of participating in published research. I got my name on a few papers but didn't get to participate often in the research side.
The team has very bad practices, which makes my job hard, as well as everyone else's. With my software development experience, I became something of an unofficial team lead by helping coworkers write better code, introducing unit testing, continuous integration and deployment, re-writing the deep learning code from scratch and taking ownership of it, among other things.
The goal was to set up better processes and teach my teammates, and progressively free up more of my time for my machine learning R&D job. Instead, the team started relying on me for deployment, software design, testing, etc. which I don't want to be responsible for. Everyone recognises the improvements but I'm still the only one pushing them. Planning is also chaotic, we constantly get pulled from tasks to work on urgent badly-planned deadlines.
The team's manager knows this, I've complained several times about it. They tried and failed to help; they struggle to get the team to change their habits. Then they tried to convince me to take the devops role full-time, I said no. One problem is that the official lead developer isn't interested in these improvements; they've been copy-pasting code to production machines forever and aren't responsible for the projects that require better practices.
How can I focus on the job I want to do? The situation is improving too slowly for my taste, but on the other hand, I might have trouble getting a pure ML position that fits my goals, since I'm not from a top school and don't yet have a PhD.