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I am currently working in a software development company. During team meeting my reporting manager asked me to look into issues related to node.js (one of the technology) whereas till date I worked with .Net (Other development technology) only. I faced this type of issues multiple times in my career where either reporting manager or someone above him in hierarchy ask me to do the same. I am not sure what will the best thing to say in this situation.

Two questions here:

How to tell that this activity is going to take time for me as I am not familiar with this technology?

Some of the points which I can think of is

  1. I don't have expertise in node.js so will have to explore it and it is going to take time.

  2. I am not familiar with node.js so will have to learn it.

  3. I am a .NET guy and haven't got any previous experience in node.js.

Should I mention this up-front in front of other members of the team during the call or should I mention this in an one-on-one meeting with manager?

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    Why do you think your manager is not already aware of all your points? They're (presumably) not stupid. Nov 22, 2022 at 13:39
  • I think the answer here is purely quantitative. How big is this job that your manager wants you to do? How proficient do you need to be with the new technology to do this job? How long would it take you to become familiar with this technology? If the manager is asking you to spend one month learning a new technology just so you can perform a 10-minute task with that technology, then it's probably bad. But if the manager is just asking you to start working a bit outside your confidence zone, then it's probably good, both for you and for the team.
    – Stef
    Nov 22, 2022 at 15:01
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    @PhilipKendall Not sure, whether he do it intentionally or unintentionally but many times I have faced this issue Nov 22, 2022 at 15:22

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Assuming that you're happy to look into this (as opposed to wanting to push back on doing node.js at all) there's nothing wrong with basically saying a variant of your first point. e.g.

I'm happy to take a look at that, as you know I'll need a bit of extra time to get familiar with node.js

This is positive whilst setting expectations that you aren't going to be able to work as quickly at this as your usual pace in your day-to-day tech. It is entirely possible for the manager to not realise that you aren't already familiar with tech x and by saying this you're also giving them the opportunity to reallocate the work to another colleague if it's urgent or time sensitive. This is much better than them carrying on in blissful ignorance and then getting stressed later when you aren't done - and avoids any unpleasant "why didn't you tell me?!" moments too.

The proverbial cherry-on-top here being that even if they do reallocate the work to someone more experienced you'll likely still come off well for having the willingness to take on new skills and grow - even without having actually done it!

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  • It’s also a good time to ask if any of your colleagues know any good resources to get up to speed with said technology.
    – AsheraH
    Nov 23, 2022 at 5:49
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    Also, you are being paid to learn on the job - this is excellent! (and in my experience, the only way to really learn software, training courses get forgotten really quickly)
    – SiHa
    Nov 24, 2022 at 12:51
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The most valuable employees are those who are both willing and able to learn new technologies. Interestingly, I've worked with plenty who label themselves as a Java Developer or a C# Developer and are unwilling to learn a new tech.

In my opinion those people are "coders" not developers or engineers.

Does it take time to learn a new technology? Of course! But I find the fact that your boss is asking you to jump in and help to be a positive.

My message would be something like this:

"I don't know much about [XXX] but I'm willing to jump in and take a look."

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    I agree with you from the company perspective, but from the engineer perspective, they have to delude their time with multiple different technologies, which could make it harder to transition into the next job where they will be applying for a specific specialisation. I.e. somebody with X years of experience in Y technology will have easier time interviewing than somebody with a little bit of everything. Nov 22, 2022 at 14:02
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    Not at all saying that people should avoid picking up different technologies. People just need to make the trade offs with their eyes opened. Nov 22, 2022 at 14:04
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    All of those things are true. My point is that it CAN be beneficial to the employee to be flexible vs. fixed depending, of course, on the situation. Needs at companies change all the time due to a variety of reasons. Those who have a track record of being able to be useful before, during, and after change happens tend to be the ones who are the most successful.
    – jwh20
    Nov 22, 2022 at 14:10
  • It's fine and dandy to say that being open to learn new tech is a positive, but painting people who are willing to learn new tech and jump from tech to tech to be the most valuable is also plain wrong. There are situations in which a generalist is great as they save you hiring five different people and there are situations that a specialist saves your company as they know their systems and language and find an issue in an hour with just a million dollar loss while a generalist who jumps into the foreign system may loose you ten times that short term plus more mid-term by reputation loss. Nov 24, 2022 at 23:56
  • i.e. it really depends.. I think it is well meant to motivate OP, but it seems to go a bit overboard in praising one type and bashing the other... and a bit besides the point in that strength as OP isn't asking whether it's beneficial for them or whether it makes them a coder or a developer in your view. Imho the first 3 sections of your answer go past the question. Nov 24, 2022 at 23:58
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I'm unsure as to what the issue exactly is here.

Is it that you have a manager that seems to think competence in one domain automatically translates to competence in another domain and then expects the same degree of output?

e.g. You do Coding, why have you taken 2 weeks to fix this node.js issue?

If that is the situation, here's how I'd tackle it:

"Hi Boss, although there's some similarities between the Languages and logic used - I'm not familiar with the Syntax nor the functions of Node.js and it will take me some time to read up on node.js and to setup some test setups in order to understand it. At minimum, that's a 2-3 week process before I can start to look at applying that knowledge to a real-world solution"

This should definitely be a private conversation or email with your Manager - the key thing is to set their expectation, you are unfamiliar, there are differences and just to get a basic understanding will take weeks of time.

If the issue is that you have no interest in learning other languages that people are asking you to use - there are two ways to go about this:

1: My 'experience' with programming languages is that almost anything can be done in any language. So I would tell them "What is it that you are trying to achieve in Node.js? If you tell me the requirements, it may be quicker for me to provide similar functionality via .Net which I'm familiar with"

2: Be direct - there is nothing wrong in setting a work boundary "I'm sorry, but I'm a .Net developer and have no interest in Node.js, if this requires node.js development, either ask someone else in the team or hire a contractor" - Your boss will likely be annoyed, but it's no different to a Waitress saying no to a well paying guest for an 'unwanted' and inappropriate request.

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    Flat-out declining to try to learn a new skill can be a Career Limiting Action. Not recommended.
    – keshlam
    Nov 23, 2022 at 3:54
  • I would suggest giving the boss an estimate as to when you can give them an estimate. In other words "I don't know node.js. Let me take a day or two to get an overview of it and then I can tell you how much time it will take to learn it well enough to do xyz".
    – DaveG
    Nov 24, 2022 at 15:54
  • @keshlam Yes. Part of being a software developer is continually learning new skills, new frameworks, new libraries, new environments, new development processes. In my entire career I never switched jobs and landed in a new position where I didn't have to do significant learning.
    – DaveG
    Nov 24, 2022 at 15:57
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    I do agree though that the analogy with the unwanted and inappropriate request is too strong, it's perfectly fine for a manager to ask you to work with another language. Typically that is covered in your contract (e.g. via "might also need to do other development tasks..." or the like). So it is appropriate to ask or even tell OP to work with it. It is also fine for OP to tell the manager that this isn't something they want to work on and rather not get involved with. The final word is typically with the manager unless OP uses the really final word and quits. Nov 25, 2022 at 0:08
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    To add, I wouldn't recommend actually doing it, but I know of some people who like the technology stack they work in and refuse to touch anything else, and that's equally fine (even if it's not what I'd do) Nov 25, 2022 at 1:25
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I've ran into the situation quite often. In general just be clear you might struggle with something because the concepts for you are very new, and you will be making mistakes or reading. I recently started a new position I have a decade of experience, but the tech stack was rusty for me (I basically went from years of Node/Typescript etc. Into Microsoft .NET. I mentioned this in the interview, that I will be able to work with it, but It would take time to adapt, usually this is perfectly fine, what you want to avoid is not set these expectations correctly and create the situation where your manager or teammates expect you to perform right away.

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Welcome to software development. I have almost 30 years of experience and it seems like every other day my manager asks me to look into something that uses a technology I don't know. This is the nature of the beast and one way to advance your skill set. Search the internet, ask team experts for guidance, read a book, take an online class, etc. You are going to be constantly retooling your skillset over the course of your career. I started out programming C then needed to learn VB on the fly, then C++, Win32 threading, COM/DCOM then C#, HTML, SQL, ASP.NET, Sharepoint, Winforms, and a variety of other stuff. Now I am developing microservices for Kubernetes running on Linux. All of these technologies were self taught because I was assigned to a project that required them. It's a career progression and you'll be seriously hampered if you fight against learning new technologies. Be flexible and accept the challenges. If your boss questions what is taking so long, be honest and explain that you've been learning Node in order to accomplish your tasks. They should understand. Learning new things and extending your skill set makes you more valuable to the organization and can enable you to command a higher salary in the future.

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  • And you don't just learn a new tech. You learn "how to learn". The more you do it, the more your brain adapts to absorbing new information, and you get faster and faster picking up new knowledge. And you are getting paid to do it, while whatever you learned belongs to you forever.
    – KC Wong
    Jul 21, 2023 at 5:14
  • @KCWong Yes very true. I have always said that the most valuable thing that I learned in engineering school was how to learn. Much of the curriculum was you going home and teaching yourself and that is a core requirement of being an engineer. In over 25 years of software development, the vast majority of new knowledge that I have gained was self taught due to being able to learn. That ability transfers over into other areas of life as well and constantly amazes my wife that I can figure out many home repairs, etc.
    – rhoonah
    Jul 24, 2023 at 15:01
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Say sure dont know java but will give it a go - gives him opt out chance.

Give it a go.

Get back in 2 days if it really is gobbledygook and say "hey, I give it ago, just dont have the background in the language to find out what you need. Shall I keep trying or is there someone else?"

Generally management not a fan of no before attempted, or no with no alternate solution.

Saying I am not the right man for the job, Bob has 5 years java script experience is something your manager would like.

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    Quick reminder: please do not confuse Java with JavaScript. They are very different languages despite the latter's deliberately confusing name.
    – keshlam
    Nov 23, 2022 at 3:53
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    True. I'm not a java or java script dev, I'm a C++ dev. Would give java or java script a go to figure something out if requested to, I guess this would be my point
    – Chris
    Nov 23, 2022 at 4:50

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