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I just started a dream job. The position is very specialized and the company and I were very happy to have found each other.

During the interview they said they're using another company for the services I was hired to perform, but they felt it would be in their best interest to have those skills in-house.

I have been here two weeks and have learned that the other company has two people working on the two projects I'm assigned to and I feel very redundant right now.

I've been mostly letting them take the lead as they're more familiar with this particular client. Also, I don't understand where the relationship is going between the two companies and I don't want to step on any toes.

I spoke to the project manager on my third day of work who admitted to me he didn't understand what my role was on the project until then and has just been having me join the other company in any meetings.

Any suggestions?

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Clarify expectations

First, I'd sit down with your project manager and any other technical management you have and clarify expectations. You don't want to cause confusion if you get more agressive, and you don't want the project manager to be out of the loop. I think it's safe to start with stating your own expectations that you would be taking on this sort of work, providing in house expertise, but that the biggest questions are how and when should you begin taking control?

For example - are you expected to start doing the work yourself on this project? Or do they have in mind that you take control on the next project? When do they want to sever the relationship with external contractors? And what assurances does management need before they feel comfortable with you taking control?

I think you want answers to this, and if the project manager and any direct technical manager that you have don't know, you have to keep asking up the management chain until you get someone responsible for this strategy.

It's usually my style to pull everyone into a final clarifying conversation, because I dislike cases where communication gets muddied in multiple transmissions. It can be conference call, in person or email - but something where all stakeholders are privy to the same rendition of the same information is vital here.

Plan Ahead

In many cases, you are asked to work side by side with the redundant team because it is expected that you will learn how assignments and comunication flows, and what your responsibilities will be. It's worth it to keep track of how work gets done and to ask plenty of questions so that, at least at first, you'd be comfortable emulating the other group's process as much as possible.

In the long term, you may put your own spin on how the work gets done... but before you can do it successfully, you need a sense of the scope of it, and the expectations.

If there isn't a written plan of how the work you are taking over will be transferred to you, a place to start may be drafting thoughts on this. It'll let you make sure you are on the same page, and let management step in to redirect you if you have gone off course.

Be careful with information

Be very careful with the outside contractors until you know the lay of the land. Unfortunately, it is likely that they trust that they will always be doing this work for your company, and that trust is likely to get messed up when it comes out that you are there to replace them.

They may still be part of your company's strategy, they may not be - either way, let management roll out this information. For the moment, remain a helpful collaborator who asks thoughtful, reasonable questions, and who reviews the work and provides internal team expertise as you can.

It's a tough trick, communication wise - you certainly don't want to lie to the external team, but you do have to be aggressive enough to start learning how they do the work and how you may take it on.    

  • You might want to change the word "severe" to "sever." For non-native speakers, this could be unclear. I tried to do the edit, but apparently edits must be at least 6 chars. – Amy Blankenship Oct 10 '12 at 17:18
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    Exactly. Pretty much what I would have said... Clarify Expectations - it sounds like YOUR job will be to put THEM out of a job. They want the expertise in house and it won't happen in your first two weeks. – WernerCD Oct 10 '12 at 18:12
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You say that your new employer said that:

they felt it would be in their best interest to have those skills in-house

That's what you are there to do then.

Learn what you can from the people currently working on the projects until you are in the position where you can take over.

The way to achieve this is to not let "them take the lead" - that's OK to begin with as you are just learning the ropes, but you need to take a more active role.

Once you are comfortable that you have a good understanding of the projects and work involved, the ones that will be redundant are these people and the third party company.

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    I'd also add to be careful. The other company may know what your role is and attempt to undermine it so they can extend their contract in the company. – Simon O'Doherty Oct 10 '12 at 18:21
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I have been in this situation twice, not at the beginning of my job but some time into it. Essentially, they will outsource because they do not have confidence that there is in-house talent to do the job. Needless to say, outsourcing is probably a lot more expensive. You have to pick their brains and demonstrate your ability to assume ownership of the project. You will need to be cocky and show off your abilities and subtly suggest that you take over, which means, let's be honest here, that you completely take over and not just participate along with the other company. THEY ARE YOUR COMPETITOR and you don't want them near the project. Once you feel comfortable, your best bet is they be dimissed altogether.

That is what happened in both my instances -- I got two expensive outside contractors let go because I demonstrated to my not-so-technical managers and budget controllers that they were overselling their effort on what I could do myself cheaper. I showcased my domain expertise and preparedness for all use case scenarios to make my managers feel warm and fuzzy about letting me take over and it worked for them because I was cheaper.

The only problem with this approach may be possible nepotism in case that your manager has a conflict-of-interest type of relationship with the contractor, who may be his friend, relative, etc. and that relationship trumps the budget and performance of the project.

4

Your question in my opinion has two parts:

1. You do not know what your role is.

In your question you say you were hired for your set of specialized skills. If this is the case then you might need to define your role.

More often than not, people who get hired for one position fill out the requirements of more than what they were hired for because they define roles for themselves and grow expertise in them.

Since you say you are to be the in-house skill instead of a third-party, you need to be proactive and look out for avenues/opportunities where you can apply your skills and bring about an improvement rather than wait for the manager to recognize the need and then ask you to work on it.

Asking your manager to define your role, might lead to specific answers that usually are short term goals like "to build X", "to fix Y" and "to investigate Z". But what about after that? Expecting the manager to define your role is wrong; managers can help you define your short term goals at best. YOU need to define what all you want to be responsible for and convince your peers that you are capable to do a good job from it.

Granted, being new to your job your work may not bring about huge changes, your vision for your role might be myopic, and there might be the occasional goof-up as well. But you are gaining valuable experience and insight as well as confidence in yourself, and when it comes to these, every little bit counts.

2. You feel redundant in your role and hence threatened by your peers with a similar skill set.

Instead of feeling threatened and feeding yourself with thoughts of rivalry (They probably feel the same about you since you are here to do what they have been doing from before), you could actually try making an effort to understand their role and their work. Build synergy. No job done is ever perfect. Brutal honesty and mutual respect disarm the most stubborn of rivals. They might be more than happy to let you help them out, given your skills.

I have seen that trying to build positivity with your peers actually helps. Try and learn as much as possible from your peers and see how you can make things better. Most of the times people are hired for their uniqueness, over and above their suitability for a position, and what they bring to the team, rather than what the manager wants.

Letting your peers take the lead initially is fine since you cannot possibly know the ropes of a new job at the outset. But do not try to look too submissive as well. You are paid to work. If you think there is something you can manage in your own, let your peers know. If you need help, ask.

But by defining yourself using only the requirements given to you during an interview, and not thinking beyond it, is a poor approach to a job.

And on an ending note, congratulations on the new job!

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You should find out who it is that created your job position. Someone in the organization didn't think it was a good idea for that work to continue to be outsourced and wanted it pulled in-house. The product manager who doesn't know what your role is is not that person, obviously.

That person or people must have some more or less clear vision or expectations. If any toes are to be stepped on (conflicts with people who want to retain that work outsourced), they should be the ones engaging that; you just execute their plan.

You should also form some kind of plan B. Who says that the projects that you were supposedly hired for are what you will be doing? Unless you really want to be doing that and nothing else, you could let yourself be put on something else. Maybe now the timing isn't right for that project to be pulled in-house. Perhaps the external people have to hit certain milestones and produce certain deliverables first. They may also be on some fixed term contract that has yet to expire. Meanwhile, other projects could be short of staff.

Maybe this company did not want to wait until the outside consultants are done and only then start looking for someone to take over, but rather hired you ahead of time. The current expectation might be that you simply learn everything that the contractors have done.

1

I've been in this position in the past and am in it now to some extent what you need to do is make yourself invaluable. Learn the system, follow what they are doing and learn. Learn every little thing you can about the system, and more. Learn what it can do and what it's not doing, learn so much that you out shine those hired outside to do your job. Make it so that instead of going to them they come to you for support.

The outside support in my case is called so little that my company is looking to drop them now, because I handle all the situations before the other support picks up the phone to call back to solve the problem originally.

You also need to set up where you are the lead, not the people doing your job. Make it so that they answer to you, tell them to write out documentation of all their actions, you want to know every little thing that they have done so just in case it goes wrong you will know not only who to blame if need be, but also how to fix it, just in case they aren't there.

If they refuse to give you notes, then you need to look at your job there, in this economy is it replaceable? The answer so far is yes, you then have two choices, do what I say and fight for it, or look for another job. I somehow think that this is a test. They want to see if you will take the reigns and control your environment, or let them walk all over you, because if you are going to let them take the lead, you may as well let them take your job.

Because right now, you are redundant… make it so you aren’t, and then own that job, otherwise you probably will be let go in two to three months because you aren’t required.

If this was a small company you’d probably be shuffled elsewhere, in a large company it’s easier to fire you and hire someone else if required, but since they have two people doing your job, they won’t need to.

Make it so that one person does your job, you… otherwise start pushing out your resume again.

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Best Case Scenario: They hired you to replace these guys but forgot to tell everyone.

Worst Case Scenario: Nobody at this company communicates well and they hired you by accident.

Assuming the worst in this case, and doing your damnedest to make sure it's a happy accident for them strikes me as the best way to go since it works for both scenarios and it sounds like you really wanted this job.

In any job, the best thing you can do when nobody's steering the boat is to take the wheel and communicate to relevant parties that you're finding stuff to do yourself (and what that stuff is of course) until somebody says otherwise, IMO.

If I were you, I'd learn the crap out of what these outsourced guys are doing to see why somebody who doesn't communicate well might want them replaced (it might be more than a cost issue). That way you'd be on that ball before it gets to you.

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