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TLDR: Job turned out different than expected. How long should i wait to make a decision about staying or leaving?

So i recently graduated university with a M. Sc. (graded 1.3, 1.0 being the best) and started my first full-time job. The description for the job - both online and in the interview - sounded great.

The job description was to do software development on SCADA systems (used in power plants, electrical grids, ...) while working in a young Scrum team. The company is international and known and the pay is exceptional compared to other positions i have interviewed for, so even when i had to move >200 miles from my home town it seemed like a no-brainer. I graduated in Electrical Engineering and IT and also have a programming background from working as a software developer the whole time through university. I had a focus on power engineering and to develop SCADA systems seemed like something i'm very interested in.

Now .. i'm there for a week only, but i'm already doubting the position. Developing SCADA systems turned out to mostly adjust some parts in an already existing software that is discontinued long-term. The software itself is mostly edited by dragging around graphics in a designer, the functionality is built-in, sort of like LabVIEW. My job will be to adjust little parts of the software to adjust them to client's specific facilities and also do support for the software. New features won't be needed. You could say that the description of "developing" SCADA software is not wrong, but also very different from what i had expected. I'm a person that needs to be challenged by the work constantly and turned down a sponsored Phd position at the university for this job.

Would you stay and hope to get better work in a few months or would you look for something else? How long should i evaluate the current position and how will working only for a few months impact my resume?

edit 2016:

Oh wow, i just rediscovered this old post. so here's what i did: I quit after 3 months, as it had become clear that my work wouldn't change considerably in the short/mid-term future. Anyway, i was looking for a new job for a few weeks and after 4 weeks i started in a research position. I've been there since end of 2014, could not be happier about the decision i made. I wouldn't recommend sticking in a crappy job, especially if you are young and don't have many obligations.

  • About the update: Good for you. Even I agree it is a bad decision to remain stuck in a crappy job. Many employers try scaring people into staying. But if you are convinced the job in the other company is better, it's always worth the risk. – Anon Jul 10 '16 at 5:46
  • Thank you for taking the time for that update, I wish more people did this. Best of luck. – Daniel Sep 24 '18 at 2:15
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You're one week in to your first job after completing your academic study - unless you get in on the ground floor of a new startup, you are not going to be leading any kind of software research and development.

Whether you like it or not, you are a rookie with no industry experience, and there will be a period where you will be assigned simple jobs - this has two purposes: 1) to integrate you into the company/team and 2) to familiarise you with the project/development process and tools.

Funnily enough, I was in the exact same position 14 years ago as you are now - except we didn't call it SCADA then, it was BMS (Building Management Systems). And my first week involved me working in paint and copy/pasting schematic elements for the front-end system.

By the end of the year, I was taking client specifications, designing whole control systems, and even training other engineers on best practices.

My advice:

  1. Don't get disheartened because you're only 1 week in
  2. Do the tasks you are given to the best of your ability, and with enthusiasm
  3. Wait a year - if you still think you can do better, start looking - you'll now have a year's industry experience to help you get a better job
  4. If you can't manage a year, wait at least 3 months - ask for a review, and ask if you could be tasked with more development work
  5. In the meantime, take every opportunity you can to learn and even shadow the other developers - show that you are keen to do more
  6. Do not ever make an ultimatum - that will almost certainly backfire with you out on your rear without time to get a new job set up
  • What if you are trained to do this tasks for a longer time frame? They had one employee who was doing the software customization while the rest of the team develops the new software. It's the same team and i assumed i'd be developing the new software too (that's what i was applying for). Instead i'm being trained to help this one guy out for a longer time period, maybe in the future will i help to develop new stuff. Other new employees didn't have to do this, so i'm assuming it's not an easy first task to prove yourself. – Traveller Jul 8 '14 at 15:30
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    You can't really compare what has been done with other people because the situation and circumstances would have been different. At any rate - only one week in is not enough time to be making any kind of decision - wait three months at the very least, and if you think things haven't improved ask for a review and say something like "I'd like to get in on the development a bit more" - whatever you do, don't say "I'm bored, and if you don't give me something more challenging then I'll go somewhere else" because you'll likely be out faster than you can type the word 'resume' – HorusKol Jul 8 '14 at 23:34
  • You have to give it more time.Find out from co workers how long it will take .There was a factory in CHCH NZ that had all these engineers soldering wires for an eternity .At the time design engineers were cheap and plentiful and hence squandered.I think you should be OK because you are on a good hourly rate so they wont squander you .I am an electronics design consultant on a good hourly rate so I do whats needed including heavy lifting . – Autistic Mar 6 '16 at 10:11
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Welcome to the software industry!

First, I just wanted to say typically software works in one of two ways.

You're in an established business where changes are typically minor, or you're massaging old code with new features and functionality (and adapting new technology at a very slow cadence mostly as necessary than proactively)

You're in a smaller more agile company that is constantly creating new products, embracing new technology, and constantly trying now ideas. Some ideas stick and will drift into a mode where you mostly just massage it like those of established companies, the majority of ideas typically don't stick and get canned. (this isn't necessarily a bad thing, so long as the successful products are lucrative enough to offset the unsuccessful ones)

Of course there are exceptions and companies that have a little of both camps, but I regret to say that almost all utility companies probably fall heavily in the slow moving massage the old software camp. (You can't risk new ideas in such critical areas, fast moving companies are more bug prone, bugs in the powergrid is a serious concern)

My point there is you may need to either adapt expectations, or adapt the companies you're pursuing. (Something to keep in mind pursuing a new opportunity)

As far as your question itself. It's best not to linger in a job you don't like, and most companies will take it better if you leave before 90 working days than after (A period which company and employee are still seeing if they mesh well) again sooner is better than later, but try to get something else lined up ASAP.

If you want to work on new and cutting edge you typically have to look at the start up level or the mid sized company that's a fast mover (Most of these tend to be companies related to Mobile Apps, Web Systems, and Games. Health, Utilities, Government tend to be slow moving. Education is all over the board, some of their systems were designed back in the 80s others are absolute bleeding edge using technology that technically is still in testing)

I personally understand your plight. The company I work for has many projects we massage that are almost 15 years old. We have some cutting edge stuff, but it's the minority. I get my desire for the new and exciting satiated with personal projects at home I do on the side.

At this point it's time to figure out what you're going to do. Try to decide in the next week, once you've decided stay or find something else, get to it. If you decide to stay give it your all, if it's still not good try not to stay past 90 days, if it works out great! If you decide to leave, try to line something else up before you go, but if you start creeping up to that 90 days try to be fair to your employer. a short stint is forgivable, a long stint when you know you're bailing doesn't look good and could get you a bad referral.

  • Thanks for the detailed answer. I have determined to wait a period of about 2 months to make my final decision. It would probably be rash to quit after only one week if the job turned out better in the end, but i guess after a few weeks i have a pretty good idea of what i'll do. I agree that it would be unfair to wait a long time and then just quit after being introduced to everything. – Traveller Jul 8 '14 at 15:34
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Were I in that kind of a situation (again) I'd:

  • talk to my boss about other ways I could potentially contribute / reasons for my dissatisfaction with the role
  • look for other roles within the company, that might be a better fit for my skillset and long-term career goals
  • start looking for other jobs, quietly - so that if I decided that this situation cannot be turned into someplace I'd want to stay, I'd be ready to go elsewhere.

It isn't great to have lots and lots of shorter-term jobs on your resume (under 3 months) but in the software industry, especially in a not-so-fantastic economy, it is fairly easily explained, and is not the negative mark that it would have been ten years ago (that goes triple for the software industry.)

Just a quick note for if/when you do decide to leave: document everything as thoroughly as possible (if it isn't already), make sure to cleanly hand off anything you're still working on...in other words, go out like a professional.

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