I hold a PhD in mechanical engineering with a 7 year background in self-guided, self-paced research including 2 years as a graduate level course instructor and a subject matter expert for various engineering projects in a university setting in the United States.
For the last 10-11 months, I am working in a research industry in France where my task is to debug C++ spaghetti code written over a period of several years by my current supervisor. It is a team of 2: just I and my supervisor.
Diurnally, I am posed with a "bug of the day" to get out of this C++ code. My supervisor generally gives me about 15-30 minutes to solve it and then accosts me about whether or not the task is completed and then rinses and repeats this until the end of the day.
Off-late, my supervisor has been holding 6-7 hour long "meetings" where instead of giving me the usual 15-30 minutes on my own, we both face a computer screen and he furiously debugs code while I sit besides him and look on. During this time, he quizzes me now-and-again on whether or not I understand what he is doing. To be completely honest, I understand what is going on only about 20-25% of the time since I haven't written the code myself and am not given time to get familiar with it. I make this clear to him but is met with exasperation on his part and his pointing out that my programming skills are lacking. The other 70-75% of times, I know that if I spend enough time with the "bug", I'd be able to figure it out. Alas, I am not granted such time.
There are no deadlines on paper, except that my supervisor tells me that "it is urgent". I have approached this subject of "urgency" with him and he has usually given me deadline dates that he seems to pull out of the air (I have missed several dates and have been met with no consequence).
In fact, I was hired for a certain job description which I am not doing at all (I was hired for non-programming equation development and have been thrust into programming). This I have approached him about too and was met with a brusque "change in plans" reply. I have also noticed that there is significant scope creep in this programming project. As having had that on a regular basis during my PhD (scope expands when you don't know what you are solving, such is the nature of some types of fundamental research), I suppose that is OK in industry setting for research.
HR has been lukewarm in their response to this issue of non-conformation to job description and lack of milestones. They say they understand the problem but they haven't done too much to enforce a better professional attitude on his part. He is a "permanent" employee whilst I am "temporary" (on-contract) and as I understand, "permanent" employees in France get a significant leeway in their approach to work and in turn their employees.
I understand that sometimes one is faced with difficult positions such as this and I would like to make the best of it for my own personal and professional development. How do I tell him in tactful fashion that being babysat for 6-7 hours a day is not really a good use of anyone's time and that just letting me do the job during that period of time may be a better solution? Is this something I should have just expected in industry settings since this is my first sojourn into industry?