I started a new job and from reading between the lines I sense a tension in that my manager is not sure if I have the technical skills. I didn't lie or misrepresent my abilities in the interview. My manager asked if I had used Python at work before to which I replied "I haven't, but I know the language and have used it for personal projects and for school assignments". He replied "you write your resume in a very tricky way (chuckles)". I find resumes to be a little bit paradoxical: on one hand you want to make yourself look as good as you can be but you don't want to mislead the reader (it would be immoral to trick them and probably wouldn't benefit you if you're doing a job that you don't have a skill for).

The manager then asked how I know I'm a good programmer. What's a good response to this? I've only had one development role before and that was more as someone's assistant, so I talked about school and personal projects. He told me there's a steep learning curve and I'm going to need to learn quickly. Honestly at times I'm a slow learner, and would appreciate a little more info than, "You've got a lot to learn and not much time."

I'm picking up tension. I've been hired and the interview is over.

How should I start a dialog with my boss regarding this issue?

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    Sorry, voting to close as off topic - "Questions asking for advice on what to do are not practical answerable questions (e.g. "what job should I take?", or "what skills should I learn?"). Questions should get answers explaining why and how to make a decision, not advice on what to do. " Commented May 6, 2015 at 8:04
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    As Murray Gell-Mann (deliberately echoing Newton) put it: "If I have seen further than others, it is because I am surrounded by dwarfs." Commented May 6, 2015 at 12:13
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    "How do you know you're a good manager?" -- No, don't do that.
    – James Adam
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 13:55
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    From a management perspective, good programmers create code that is readable (and therefore maintainable), reliable and efficient; all in a predictable manner i.e. hitting planned dates. They are also quick at getting up to speed with new technologies. If you frame your response in these terms, it might allay his fears. Commented May 6, 2015 at 15:15

5 Answers 5


You've been hired. It's not as much about the conversations as it is about the quality of your code. You're not going to be able to talk your way out of it.

Start with asking how your code is evaluated. Many places don't have this distinction. It will vary from a peer code review based on an established coding standard or they may be happy with "it works" mentality.

Find out what the criteria are. Ask for some regular review of your code and get your boss to commit to an evaluation. They may have guidelines and/or examples of what they consider good code.

If he really knew what he was doing, he would have watched you write code in Python as part of your test. Who hires a chef without asking them to cook and tasting their food?


Having a Conversation over things that bother you is always a good decision.

That said, You have applied for that job. Are you unsure if you can handle it now? Learning is an integral part of working in Software, so you always will be required to learn new things, preferably fast.

For your soothing, it is alwaystricky to answer that question. "Are you a good Programmer?" That mostly depends on his expectations. And he has hired you, so you can't be that far off.


You could have a conversation with your boss as to what is it about your description of your Python skill that's tricky to him. I presume that you were never out to trick anyone and if there was any ambiguity or anything that was misleading in the way you wrote your resume, you'd like to know what it is so that you can fix it.

Having said that, your boss asked for a clarification about your Python skill and you gave that clarification without beating the bush or saying anything incoherent. At this point, the boss knows exactly where you stand and nobody is misleading anyone. Case closed.

How do you know you are a good programmer? That's an answer you'll have to work for yourself over time and depending upon what you are specializing into. For example, making sure that the code is scalable is not necessarily a priority if you do web programming, especially front end web programming. On the other hand, writing scalable code is critical if you are doing heavy duty processing at the back end.


Right now you and your boss on a collision course for failure. Your boss has the expectation that you are going to fail and you are concerned that you do not have the ability to do the job to his satisfaction. The problem right now is that you do not have a measuring stick to even compare your progress against his expectations. So no matter how hard you try and how much progress you make there is a real chance it will not be enough. The truth is your boss probably has not even thought of it in those terms, and as such is setting up failure for you as well.

The first step is to talk to him and get some measurable goals that you can demonstrate growth with. This will give both of you a consistent measuring tape to know if you are making the type of progress that is going to be needed for you to be successful with the company.


If you think you're a good programmer, tell your boss why you think that.

Personally I would describe myself as "proficient", based on my work history of delivering projects on time (usually) and with little need for rework, ie bug fixes etc. Obviously you would need to find your own evidence to back up your own position of how you feel your skill level as a programmer. Are there any projects or assignments you can use as evidence etc? Saying you are "good" or "exellent" is difficult to prove and quantify, good compared to whom for example.

Your boss sounds quite inexperienced and is now worrying that he has hired someone who can't do the job, you can prove him wrong but it will take some time to gain his trust and respect.

I would lay my cards on the table and have an open conversation with him and say something like, if you aren't happy with my performance in 3/6 months time then I will leave and look for another job so you can hire someone else. I would ask for weekly/monthly meetings to see how the boss feels I am doing and what concerns he may have, what areas I need to improve on. If he isn't happy with any aspect of your performance then it is reasonable for him to let you know and how to rectify that.

If things don't go well at least you will know beforehand and can look for another role, you don't really want to work for someone who isn't happy with your performance regardless of how "good" you are, or how good you think you are! It may be that your boss doesn't like you for some personal or other reason and is using your ability (or his perceived lack of) as an excuse to get rid of you. Your face may not fit for example, nothing much you can do about that, but having the open chats may bring this to light.

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