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The project that I am on consists of one fairly junior developer (me, with about four years experience) and a project manager/engineer.

We are rewriting a piece of software but we keep getting pulled off the rewrite to make improvements to the existing code. Also the architects of the existing code (an entire department with many experienced programmers and software architects) are exerting political pressure to stop the rewrite.

In addition, I came up to speed fairly quickly but this program is larger and more complex than any I have worked on. There are still a lot of parts I have not had a chance to look at.

I have been able to add value to the existing program but feel that I am way out of my league, and the time we have spent putting out fires has left us months behind on the UI rewrite, let alone the entire system rewrite (which they want by January).

I have been with the company for a year, I have gotten along well with my immediate boss who was impressed by my learning curve. I am also getting a Masters in Engineering and will be done by April of next year.

I stayed at my last job for two years, which was my first job out of college (although I worked at a library for three years before that).

I guess my question is twofold. One, will leaving either before or right after receiving my Masters make it look like I am job-hopping and draw a negative pattern?

And two, would I be more advised to wait until finishing school anyway so that I can make use of my degree?

What I have come up with so far is that I am good until either the late deliveries effect my performance reviews, or the feeling of being overwhelmed effect my performance. And I have some time to look into companies a little more and choose one with a little more care (I got my current job after being laid off in the sequester). Or, management knows that the timetable is unreasonable and they are working on adding more people to the team.

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    "I have been able to add value to the existing program but feel that I am way out of my league, and the time we have spent putting out fires has left us months behind on the UI rewrite, let alone the entire system rewrite (which they want by January). " This should be an issue for the PM, not for you. – SJuan76 Jul 28 '14 at 21:06
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    Also, the situation you describe is not one I would call a "death-march". There are issues with the project management, which may be solved one way or the other. Death-march is when management decides that the solution is that you should begin working 60-70 hours/week. The fact that you are still studying for your Masters would point that it is not the fact. It seems you are just worrying about issues which is not your job to fix (it is PM or Management), so maybe you are precipitating yourself. – SJuan76 Jul 28 '14 at 21:11
  • Just a thought: 500 classes [...]permission to view). Since a non-trivial number of Workplace.SE members are not programmers, perhaps this could be rephrased to avoid what would appear as techno-mumbo-jumbo. – rath Jul 29 '14 at 0:01
  • Following on from the comment by @SJuan76 - if this is a death march, can you add some detail? e.g. how many hours a week are they expecting you to work? And what effect is this having on your Masters study? – Carson63000 Jul 29 '14 at 0:02
  • @SJuan76 I used death march in the context of believing the project is destined to fail rather than requiring an unsustainable workload. I believe that this project will be critically over budget, behind schedule... And may be killed by politics at any point. – kleineg Jul 29 '14 at 11:54
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Job hopping, specifically in the software industry, would be more along the lines of 4+ jobs with different companies in two years' time; or a history of a new FTE job every year for five years or more. I'm not seeing that kind of change-up in the career history that you've laid out for us.

In answer to your first question:

Leaving right around the time you receive your Masters will not look like job hopping (in my opinion), esp. since you've been at your current role for a year, and the one before that you were there two years. If I calculate right, that will be two consecutive two-year roles for you by the time you get your Master's, correct? (I would personally want the next role to be a 4-5 year stint, but even if it's another 2 or 3 year role in the same industry, I don't know that it would raise any major red flags for all employers, or even for most.)

Waiting until closer to project completion will look good professionally; and it's quite possible that the management at your current role will be able to find people to help with some of the work, letting you concentrate strategically.

In answer to your second question:

I would wait until much closer to acquiring your Master's degree, to go into serious jobsearch mode - and aim to start any new role very close to the time you receive your Master's. My thinking here is that combining school with full-time employment is difficult. A new employer will be happy to bring someone on board who has no other commitments, even scholastic; and you won't be under the dual stress of "study to finish up projects for Masters" because you will have already completed that. Give yourself fewer flaming torches to juggle :)

Assuming you would get your Master's in May 2015, I would start sending out resumes in January/February 2015, and follow up with the HR people / recruiters every week or so. Advise them of your start date, that you can start sooner if the ideal role comes along, but you'd feel better if you could devote your full attention to learning your new role. Ramp up your jobsearching around April, with more resumes sent out / more frequent touch-base emails and/or calls. Regarding your degree, I'd say that your experience will help just as much as your degree, but having that degree finalized may open up another 5% of roles to you. (Or possibly more, depending on which companies you target.)

Good luck (on both fronts!)

  • I agree, someone is only likely to be flagged as a 'job hopper' if they show a repeated tendency of holding down each job for less than 1 year. 1 year or more is generally safe, and a shorter stint won't hurt if you only have one. Just don't make a habit of it. – aroth Jul 28 '14 at 23:39

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