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I landed a job that I applied for right out of college. The job listing was for a software developer utilizing C#/Python/C++ and during the interview, it was revealed that the position that I was applying for would involve some awesome hardware development on the Microsoft Kinect that I was extremely excited about. There was no talk of me taking the role of a Web Developer.

After relocating for this job, I find out 5-minutes into my first day that my title has changed from Software Developer to Web Developer (which isn't the position that I had applied for nor the title on my contract). And instead of using the technologies (programming languages) that I had written on my resume that I have experience with, I'll be using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, JSON, etc. Front-end web development technologies. Aside from HTML and CSS, I've never used JavaScript, jQuery, JSON, or any languages a front-end developer would use; I never claimed to. I don't have much experience in web-design/building because it's just not something I've ever enjoyed (like when I took an elective on Mobile Web Apps).

Well, I sucked it up and welcomed the challenge. I've been spending nights at home trying to learn JavaScript and jQuery; hell, I don't even have groceries in my fridge because I've been dedicating my time into learning these new languages.

But today, something snapped in me a little. It's Day #7 working here and this is the third JavaScript + jQuery question that I've asked my boss (the only guy who claims to know JS) and he couldn't answer. So I really am flying solo here.

The project I've been given, I'm now just realizing as I learn more about front-end development, is actually quite technical and no one can help me with it. My boss and I had a talk at the end of my first week because he said my progress was slow and I agreed, but I also explained why. He did humbly admit that in no way on my resume or interview did I lead him to believe that I was a front-end developer, though he still didn't say anything along the lines of, "Oops, I goofed up. Maybe I should put you back on the hardware team." Nor has he said anything supportive like, "I'm here to help".

Now, feeling rather alone with no support on this project and in my work environment, I feel like I'm crunching to hit deadlines that I have no clue if I'll hit. I'm scared I'll get fired and I'm legitimately losing sleep over this; I constantly feel sick. Mostly because I know even if I work really hard to do the tasks at hand (that are to be sold to clients... which is another reason why I feel like crap), there's a possibility that I'm likely to screw up pretty hard because I don't have a professional to review my code and tell me how to improve.

So, what I'm hoping the community here can give me some insight on:

-Should I approach my boss and ask to be put on another project?

-Does having no one to learn from at work jeopardize my future career?

-Would it be wrong of me to consider looking for another job?

-Am I wrong to feel a little burned inside?

EDIT: I think it might be significant to note that I think my boss was intending to hire a Web Developer because I recently found out that the company was looking for one, and now they're not. So, I guess that's me? But again, I DID not apply for that position. I went back to my email logs and resume; I applied for the Software Developer position which was for working with the Kinect and other software solutions to be provided to clients. And no, my salary and compensation package was not that of an experienced front-end web developer who could come into a small company and take on the lead role of front-end web development. Unless of course $48,000 is what those kinds of developers make.

EDIT2 (02/25/2016): We had another discussion in private today after he came over to my desk, leaned against my chair, and towered over me while skeptically asking me about my progress. I showed him what I did, because I did make progress, but it apparently wasn't good enough. He loudly tells me, in front of every other employee in our small office, that he expected more by this point and that he wants something more to show his boss by tomorrow. He said that his boss is, "expecting more by now and this isn't going to work. You really need something more by tomorrow." I told him that I completely understand his concern and that I'd like to talk to him about this in private; I was so, so embarrassed that this was all going down in the public space around my coworkers.

So we went to a "private" location (there was still an employee in the room) and I expressed to him that I could not in good conscious tell him whether it could be done or not by tomorrow; "Again", I told him, "I have no experience in these technologies. I can assure you I'm doing my best, even paid for an online course to work on at home and a little at the office when I get stuck." Last week he had admitted that I had never said I was experienced in this stuff, but now he's saying, "Well... You said you designed a mobile web app so I expected you knew what you were doing." I didn't argue with him about it because there's no point, but the truth of the matter is he had asked me what my work was regarding a senior project I had done with Boeing for a web app. Yes, it WAS a web app! But he never asked me about what it actually was. It was using HTML5, CSS, PHP, and SQL (which is WRITTEN on my resume). That in no way is the same as saying I'm a Front-End Web Developer, let alone with experience in JS, jQuery, JSON, Bootstrap, etc.

The conversation ended with him, for the 2nd time now in less than two weeks, harassing me about my job security and holding it over my head. I am seriously breaking down here. I mentioned to him after the meeting that one of our other employees (doing the job that was supposed to be the one I was hired for) had said that he had some experience in JS. So today said employee and I worked together but it's pretty clear he doesn't have much experience and wasn't really of use except for easing the burden of working alone on this project. But it's still in my hands.

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    @Pythagoras When you talk to your boss, see if training is an option. They could pay to have you take some training classes while on the clock. Even free courses from coursera for example. The point being, you should not have to use your personal time for that. Use your personal time to relax, have some fun, make some friends, etc. That will also help. – mikeazo Feb 25 '16 at 13:11
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    They made the mistake. Stop spending so much of your free time trying to make up for it. Learn as you go for 8 or so hours every business day, and use your own personal time for your own personal pursuits. Don't worry about getting fired. Even if it happens it's no big deal. But I'd wager they are desperate enough to not take that step. – stannius Feb 25 '16 at 17:36
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    No, it doesn't. As I said in the answer- if the first time you asked for help you didn't get it, there is no reason to think that this was going to end well. We bring people in with more experience with you and don't expect them to contribute anything on their own for a couple months while they get familiar with the system and spend most of their time pairing with more experienced engineers on all the different parts of the system. If he expects you to contribute in week 2 straight out of college he's an idiot - and your career has nothing to gain by being there. – Paul Becotte Feb 26 '16 at 5:15
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    @Magisch, be careful making blanket statements like that when you have no idea of a number of very important specifics that affect salary. For example, you have no idea what country the OP is in, let alone what part of that country, etc. – mikeazo Feb 26 '16 at 14:30
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    @Pythagoras given your recent edit, I would suggest that you seek a meeting with your boss's boss, and I wouldn't do this behind your boss's back. I would talk to your boss and ask if the three of you can sit down together to talk about this issue. Bring with you the resume you submitted, the info on the job you thought you were being offered, etc. I agree with the answer that it seems your boss is trying to cover up his mistake. – mikeazo Feb 26 '16 at 14:33
103

You should immediately go back to the job search. You mentioned your concerns once, and they described your progress as "slow" and didn't offer any extra help. There is no way that this ends well in the long run. Find something somewhere else with a better support structure.

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    Day 7, he has had one conversation about this with his boss, and your answer is find another job? – paparazzo Feb 25 '16 at 10:54
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    Yes, he should because it's better than having to deal with the mark of "fired for cause". From his description, they flat out lied to him. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Feb 25 '16 at 15:25
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    +1 From the OPs description, the company has screwed up so badly and is handling the resulting situation so poorly, that I honestly can't imagine this will be a good place to work at whatever he does now. The first years in the industry are so important to learn and grow, don't waste them on a company like this! – s1lv3r Feb 25 '16 at 17:24
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    In the US at least, not smiling enough is a valid cause to get fired for :) If you start a job where you don't know how to do stuff, ask your boss for help, and instead get criticized, it is time to consider moving on. I could understand if he was hired to do something he had claimed to know how to do- but that isn't the case. Maybe it works out... but the chance of it not seems so high I would immediately begin looking again. – Paul Becotte Feb 25 '16 at 18:51
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    @Stannius In the USA, they can fire you if your socks are untied. (yes, I know, you don't tie your socks, that's my point). – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Feb 25 '16 at 19:10
61

Firstly, I am really sorry to hear about your predicament. Secondly, I truly admire you for handling the situation with far more patience and grace than I would have been able to muster.

Should I approach my boss and ask to be put on another project?

If you still wish to work at this company, then yes, you absolutely should. As an alternative, you might want to consider suggesting to your boss to either provide training for you, or give you more time to master web development frameworks. He put you in your current role in spite of being very aware that neither your skills nor your primary interests pertain to web development, so I don't think it is unreasonable of you to ask him whether he can offer some kind of help or compromise.

With that said, I strongly agree with Paul Becotte that you should start looking for another job. Some people might think that doing so is too impulsive -- after all, you joined this company only 7 days ago -- but I think your boss' behavior so far signals that you will be very miserable if you continue working under his leadership.

Your boss is dishonest.

He misled you into thinking that you would be a Kinect developer, an opportunity which you were really enthusiastic about. Because of that, he was able to recruit you at a salary 1) much lower than what an experienced web developer would earn, and also 2) lower than what your skill-set is perhaps otherwise able to command (since you'd be willing to accept a lower pay in return for the opportunity to do what you really love).

Your boss is disrespectful.

At no point prior to foisting web development duties upon you did he ask for your thoughts and opinions on the matter. He has already set the tone for your working relationship with him: You will do what he wants you to do without discussion. Do you think this is a healthy dynamic? (This is a rhetorical question -- there is only one correct answer, which is a resounding 'No'.)

Your boss is unhelpful/unsympathetic.

He makes no offer at all to provide any kind of assistance for you in spite of knowing that your primary skills and interests are completely unrelated to web development. Instead, he criticizes you for not making progress quickly enough. He has put you under so much stress that you now suffer from insomnia and constantly feel unwell. How much more of this can you take?

In response to your edit on 25 February, here is an addendum:

Your boss is manipulative.

Now he is shirking responsibility by attempting to gaslight you. He is insinuating that you were the one who misled him into thinking that you were ready to work as a web developer using jQuery/Bootstrap/etc. My speculation is that he is trying to cover his @$$ here -- he does not want to admit to his boss that he was the one who screwed up, so he is trying to re-frame the narrative to make it sound as if you were the dishonest party, not he. If his boss asks to speak with you, be ready to produce the employment contract that you signed, so that you can prove that you were originally hired to be a Kinect developer, and not a web developer.

Anyway, it is safe to say that your relationship with your boss is likely irreparably soured by now. Therefore, my original advice still stands:

Start looking for another job now. Your current situation is not sustainable. Besides, you must also be prepared for the scenario that your boss might decide to terminate your contract on very short notice, because he is unhappy that you are not making enough progress in a role for which 1) you did not apply and 2) he provides no assistance.

You mention in your post that you relocated for this job. Maybe you are currently living far apart from your family and friends, and have no one to immediately turn to for emotional support. Please stay strong. You will pull through.

11

The only thing you can do is approach your boss and work through your issues with him/her. You're in over your head, and if things go South, guess who's fault it will be. You're also working on learning stuff you shouldn't have had to know for the job you applied for in your own time.

This is squarely the bosses fault, but approach from the angle of using personal time and skill mismatch rather than outright blame him/her. They already know who's fault it is. Make sure they understand that you don't know if you can make the deadlines, because that puts the ball squarely in their court.

This is what I would do, I would talk to the boss and hash things through, then regardless of the outcome I would send a follow up email with a brief professional summary mentioning the time I'm spending learning js on my own time and the possibility that I won't make deadlines.

It is now in writing to be referenced if there are problems, so I would then get on with the job, but I wouldn't be killing myself over it, I've already informed that the deadlines may not be met so I'm covered. It's up to the boss to come up with a solution to make sure they are, not me.

3

The pay scale for jr developers is all over the map - even within a single city. So it's hard to say if you are being paid fairly or not.

As far the the real issue, you have a choice to make based on the risk you're willing to take on. If you are willing to potentially find yourself out of a job, then you absolutely should sit down with your boss and HR and discuss the situation and see what can be done about it.

It's entirely possible that they decided they didn't need another kinect developer. It's also possible that they hired someone right after you that they felt was a better fit for that role and rather than retract the offer simply put you in a different role.

Alternatively you could decide that the number of potential jobs doing kinect development is pretty small and instead take a different path. Web developers are highly likely to be in demand for a long time.

Next, if you decide to continue in web development at that company then you need to discuss extending the deadlines with your manager to something that sounds more reasonable. Bearing in mind that the only way to be able to set a realistic deadline is when you are familiar with the tech.

Should I approach my boss and ask to be put on another project?

I would.

Does having no one to learn from at work jeopardize my future career?

We can't answer that. It depends on your ability to learn and apply new information (kind of a requirement to be a developer) and your existing work environment.

Would it be wrong of me to consider looking for another job?

I'd try talking it over with the boss and HR first. If that doesn't work and I was committed to working with kinect then I'd find another job.

Am I wrong to feel a little burned inside?

You are entirely justified. You interviewed for one job and they switched you to another; they should have had a conversation with you prior to your start date if that was going to happen.

  • I wasn't meaning to imply that I was being paid unfairly; just that if he was looking for a Web Dev to come in and take over projects and know what they're doing right off the bat, it would seem $48K is a little low, you know? I'm happy with $48K! If it was more, I'd feel more stressed than I am now haha. As for the rest of your answer, than you SO, SO much. Any suggestions on how I can talk about deadline extentions? I feel like you hit the mark when you write that, "the only way to be able to set a realistic deadline is when you are familiar with the tech." Which I'm clearly not. – user47188 Feb 25 '16 at 0:50
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    @Pythagoras: The first question you need to have answered is "where did the deadline come from?" For a lot of development it's either tied to budget or it's some date picked out of the air. Regardless, the deadline shouldn't be your problem; your manager should be managing expectations with whoever he reports to on it. The fact that they hired a new person to work with unfamiliar technologies essentially by themselves should be a clear indicator that the deadline is meaningless anyway so don't stress about it. – NotMe Feb 25 '16 at 0:55
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    After reading your edit, especially your supportive answer about me being justified in feeling burned, I kind of broke down. It feels good to get support because I have absolutely no one I can talk to about this problem. Me being the kind of person that never wants to step on toes and recognizing that I'm young and stupid, I'm always trying to be cautious about if I'm being irrational or not. And your follow up comment, plus everything else you've said, speaks logically to me. You do not understand how much weight you've lifted off my shoulders; thank you so incredibly much. – user47188 Feb 25 '16 at 0:59
  • I will take your advice and apply it. – user47188 Feb 25 '16 at 1:01
  • @Pythagoras: I wish you luck. It can be hard starting out. – NotMe Feb 25 '16 at 1:03
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Quit

When asked why you quit so quickly by prospective future employers tell them that the job you received changed description and title from hardware focused to web development shortly after your arriving and it was no longer a good fit. Don't bad mouth the previous employer. This is a sucky little blip in your career.

-1

I have been in this sort of position a lot. I would keep learning JQuery and front-end development for several reasons. Front-end development is really important for all sorts of productions, including, I am sure the project (Kinect) that you are on. You can't go wrong knowing that stuff. Secondly Javascript seems to be used everywhere there too: I would also learn node.js if you are really interested in embedded development.

I would definitely approach your boss with your concerns but if everything else is alright don't go looking for another job even if he or she asks you to stay on the front-end stuff.

After having had a lot of these sort of issues I came to the conclusion that it's okay to learn on-the-job unless you are asked to create critical software. Then it's a red flag. I raised the same issue as you on a recent position because I didn't know Java expertly and was asked to do some critical stuff. But since you are a recent college grad I definitely wouldn't feel bad learning Javascript rather than C++.

  • This is bad advice. JavaScript is dying, C++ is the workhorse of the back-end languages, and from that, you've got a good foundation for C#. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Feb 25 '16 at 19:13
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    I apologize. This is my first time providing help on Stack Exchange. I need some guidance. Regarding my comment, being an iconoclast has really helped me in my technical career though the path has been difficult at times. I have never been more excited about Javascript and the new initiatives based upon this language; the MEAN suite, Mongo DB Ember.js Angular.js and Node.js! – Evan Williams Feb 27 '16 at 4:29
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    "JavaScript is dying" [citation needed]. – RJFalconer Aug 17 '16 at 13:50

protected by mcknz Oct 3 '18 at 14:38

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