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I work as a newly hired junior software developed in embedded system. My boss critiqued me during a review telling me that I should work on my organisational talent, my accountability and adhere more to the companies processes. He further criticized my acceptance in the team noting that I should be wary not to ask questions in big rounds, which are obvious to electrical engineers, but were not to me at that moment.

I first thought, he would fire me, but when I asked him, he said he would be willing to continue with me after the probationary period. He did not say anything positive besides that.

While I think I can take some steps towards a higher acceptance in the team (I basically asked most of the stupid questions and understand the materia much better now), I struggle finding ways to improve my accountability and overall diligence.

It is not the case, that I do not do what is expected of me, but when you look into the details people find all sorts of little mistakes I did when executing a certain job. For example, my boss told me to do something, but did not give me a deadline. When he thought I could not make it on time anymore, he decided to do it himself. I would have done it, I had not forgotten, but it was too late for him. Mission failed. On another occasion I did not adhere to a style guide of my company several times in my code, leaving a colleague to fix it, while I was in holidays for a week. I could count some more examples.

I try to fix all of this, but I am afraid when it comes to diligence, there will always be pitfalls I have trouble detecting. Do you have any advice working on that front?

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  • "I should be wary not to ask questions in big rounds, which are obvious to electrical engineers, but were not to me at that moment." Ill be honest with you, that right there is bad... You aren't an electrical engineer, but you are expected to work closely with them. But you cannot ask 'stupid' questions that any electrical engineer should know??? Sorry, but I'd rather 'waste time' on a 'stupid' question, then have someone misunderstand something because they didn't know better.
    – Questor
    Oct 17, 2023 at 20:57

3 Answers 3

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Get organized. Build a check list. Plan ahead.

Every time you get a new assignment, you should assess it carefully:

  1. Do you have all the requirements? What is vague, unclear and subject to interpretation?
  2. What are potential corner cases or outliers. How should they be handled? Do you have all relevant use cases?
  3. Do you understand what the deliverable is? Is it clearly defined.
  4. How will you test/verify that the deliverable is actually meeting all requirements?
  5. What tools, data, resources do you need? Do you have them?
  6. Create a work break down: figure out the individual steps required, how they relate and WRITE THEM DOWN.
  7. For each step determine how to verify them properly. DO NOT GO TO THE NEXT STEP until the previous one is fully verified. Consider proper unit testing wherever possible.
  8. Don't forget the "auxiliary" steps. Things like "setting up build environment", "build test infrastructure", "automated testing and reporting", "documentation", etc
  9. Build a mini schedule and estimate your delivery date adding a healthy fudge factor (if you are new to this). Compare to the deadline and see if it looks reasonable or not. Write it up concisely.

Initially this may seem tedious and daunting. Don't worry, it'll get easier over time and you WILL get better because of it. You SHOULD have learned this in college but that's a topic for another soap box rant. It's not rocket science its standard work place practice.

You can ask your boss too help, look over your plan provide feedback and quick answers. What you are doing here is the very definition of diligent, so your boss is very likely to support the effort. They should have suggested something like this themselves.

You will obviously have questions. Make sure you collect as many of them up front, think through potential answer's ahead and then go an ask in one session. Most people don't mind answering 5 well thought out questions once every 2 days. Most people DO mind getting questions that the asker didn't spent any time on themselves every few hours.

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  • that is a great answer, thank you:-)
    – Niclas
    Sep 30, 2023 at 18:20
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I try to fix all of this, but I am afraid when it comes to diligence, there will always be pitfalls I have trouble detecting. Do you have any advice working on that front?

If your problem is detecting them, two courses of action I suggest:

  1. When you are told about such deficiencies, do your best to work on them. This scenario "spares" you from "detecting" them; someone else did and now your job is to improve on that.

  2. Try to proactively or more frequently ask for feedback. Perhaps to a colleague you are close to. This will "train" you on being better able to detect them on your own.

Finally, have in mind that those "deficiencies" are not rare when joining a new job. It's part of learning the ropes. The idea is that, with time, there are less things to correct and you will be more experienced to "know better".

Your focus/effort should be on trying to get over the learning curve as fast as you can.

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By definition:

Diligent: work hard, work smart, work well with the team.

Accountable: When you commit to doing something, make every effort to complete it. If you promise it by a specific time, get it done by then, or earlier. Keep management informed of your progress and what you need in order to meet those targets. If running late, say so rather than trying to hide that until the deadline has been missed. Accept and learn from your mistakes.

HOW you improve these depends on the details of where you are falling behind. Work with your manager to set specific goals and checkpoints.

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  • Isn't diligence about more than just working hard?  AIUI, it's also about being focused and taking care; looking out for all the details, ensuring that nothing gets forgotten or overlooked.  In OP's case, it might mean working out how to avoid the little mistakes, and proactively discovering and following the company's processes.
    – gidds
    Sep 30, 2023 at 19:02
  • @gidds: I believe that's covered by the rest of that paragraph, admittedly in telegraphic form. If you don't think so, you're free to write your own answer.
    – keshlam
    Sep 30, 2023 at 20:13

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