In December I joined a startup to introduce a Bioinformatics team: first the infrastracture, then little by little the team would be hired. I have been there for more than 8 months and I have been having trouble with IT support. Everybody else has problems with IT, and the last update I heard was:

"your needs will have fit into the global strategy of the company".

However, I am the only guy doing what I do. I have a server with 1Tb without backup, and when I ask for more storage and backup my manager tells me that "I want everything".

More recently, another senior manager told me that there is no money for Bioinformatics and that there won't be money to hire anybody else for my team until the company becomes profitable: they would rather cut projects than increase my support.

I could focus on my technical skills, but there is not even money for proper IT support. My manager says "people won't ask you how many programs you wrote, but how you reacted in this situation".

I have been telling myself that this is good opportunity to learn about larger organisations, lobbying and politics. However, right now my role is very different from the team leader role that was discussed during my hiring.

My manager recently said: "there is no money for now but things will be alright; stop making noise and complaining about IT with others, if you have any problem you must only talk to me".

My question is: how can I measure whether this is actually a good learning opportunity or if I am deluding myself?

closed as off-topic by gnat, Alec, Masked Man, scaaahu, Jane S Aug 10 '15 at 22:41

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  • 3
    Any measure will be entirely qualitative and likely very subjective. Exactly what metrics can you use? Stress levels? Less arguments with your boss? How you handle data loss from lack of backups? I would have to say you are probably trying to read more into a situation where it's simply a startup that doesn't have the money to properly fund itself. – Jane S Aug 7 '15 at 9:50
  • 3
    You know, you can learn a lot more from a good situation than you can learn from a bad one. Don't stay just because you think you're learning how to do things. You're learning how not to do things. – Kent A. Aug 7 '15 at 13:25

My question is: how can I measure whether this is actually a good learning opportunity or if I am deluding myself?

"Learning opportunity" is the politically correct way of saying "shitty job". You will not learn how to be good at leading a team when there is no team. You will not learn how to run a proper backup on your data, when there is no way to backup.

You might learn how to retype code and reimport data real fast and under pressure once the server breaks 2 days before the big presentation. Is that really the skill you want to learn?

If something is called a learning opportunity, just try to find a better job. If you find none without the skills you would learn there, then it's an opportunity. If you can find a better job without the skills that you would learn, run.


You must do two things immediately:

  1. Decide that the money crunch is reality for at least the near term. Determine how you will address those shortfalls with minimal (or zero funds). Determine what disasters can be lessened or mitigated in that environment.

  2. Don't bad mouth the company or a part of the company. Your manager told you to stop. Now try and become a productive part of the company without being a complainer.

Now that you have addressed those two issues move on to trying to grow the company. You need to either create business in bioinformatics or in some other part of their business. This growth may help create your team, or at least preserve your job.

If you can do that, and in a couple of years you have grown into a solid team member then you have learned how to adapt to your situation. If you can't survive that long you still may have learned something.

If you don't want to do those things, your goal is simpler: Keep employed long enough to find a new job.


I think people that talk about whether something is a "good learning opportunity" often forget that this needs to be relative to a benchmark. Many people, including myself, can still learn even if we were somehow relegated to cleaning toilets rather than bioinformatics, coding, etc. However, frankly speaking, I would not be a good janitor and I would not enjoy being one. Lose-lose. Is your current situation enabling you to learn above what you would be learning in an "average" situation you could and want to obtain?

It sounds like it's probably true you don't know enough about how to work in organizations. However, larger organizations are quite different than smaller ones. Only you can make the call if it's worth the time to get familiar with the high levels of bureaucracy and maneuvering that goes on in a large organization. If you see yourself continuing on in similarly structured organizations, then it'd be worth it.

Despite what another answer says, I don't see any evidence you are "bad-mouthing". It's reasonable to ask for additional resources you need to do your job. If the situation has changed sufficiently that you can no longer do anything resembling the job you were hired for, I don't really see a compelling reason to stay.

Nonetheless, if your boss is really a pointy-haired type, and will interpret reasonable requests as "bad-mouthing" and say you're not a team-player, etc., then you need to bow to him/her and act like you're the one at fault. Then do whatever work you can while secretly planning a move to another company.


Maybe some things aren't meant to be a "learning" opportunity. Rather it is what it is and there is nothing to be "learned" from it. It sounds like your manager is telling you to take the "chillax" approach to things. So the IT department can't handle your request. That sounds great. Just tell that to whoever requested it. Just say, "Hey, I just submitted something to IT and they're saying I have to give a reason to fit the goal of the company. Here's what I said..." Then just chillax. Your part of it is done.

I would say bureaucratic nonsense is hardly a "learning experience" because everywhere is different. I suppose you could "learn" something by it. First, don't expect anything immediately and think of it like oiling a really jammed up gear. Just slowly drip oil in it, and eventually it'll loosen up. Might take a long time, sure, but the most important thing is not to get frustrated by it. Just slowly keep at it, and slowly things will start moving. It sounds like your boss is cluing you in that things aren't suppose to move fast just yet so you shouldn't worry too much. He didn't say you were doing a bad job, just complaining about it too much because you want things done too soon when it isn't suppose to.

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