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I'm a relatively junior developer on a 2 man IT team, and I've been working here for just about 3.5 months. I'm primarily good with object oriented programming (java, c++, c#) and was hired on to be the second to my supervisor for both general IT and development, which I was happy with. I had to learn database skills which is something I was good with as well, with good documentation and a knowledgeable person on hand to ask questions of (my supervisor). And up until about 3 weeks ago, I was happy and really enjoyed my work and learning new things at a quick pace.

Now my boss is pushing his pet project on to me and expecting me to handle it mostly independently, though he does make himself available to help when he can. The problem is that its in language(s) that I don't know and that my boss is only passingly familiar with (node.js, phantomjs, casperjs if it matters). I've been liberal about my use of stackoverflow, stackexchange, and the documentation, but I just feel like I'm in over my head and my boss is pressuring me to get something he can see on the table.

I'm all for rising to the challenge, and thats what I've been trying to do, but I'm spending a lot of time at work and out of it frustrated and unsatisfied because I keep getting stuck and because of the nature of the project and the lack of knowledge on my boss's part (I'm the one teaching him about what I'm doing) I can't really ask for direct help from inside or outside the organization. I've been making huge amounts of progress on other sections of the work, fairly rapidly, but it feels like when I'm working on this project I'm making little or none for most of the day. I feel confident that given enough time I could figure it out and get it all working, but I just feel like I'm under pressure to rush rush rush even though there isn't a deadline.

I'm basically just looking for some advice on what to do about this. 'Talk to your boss' might work but its something that, from the business side, would really help out so its likely to not get tabled and my boss also can't pick it up because he has a lot more responsibilities on both the business and technical side (not the least of which is his moving to open up a new office location soon).

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    If both you and your boss are not familiar with the language the project is being developed in, why is it being done in that language? A good starting point for a discussion with your boss would be, why are we doing it this way and can we do it in a way we are more familiar with and still accomplish the goal. – JasonJ Jun 30 '16 at 20:37
  • @JasonJ I actually have started that discussion, and its because my boss feels like that is the way the industry is going and likes the idea of doing everything he can in javascript. I don't have the experience (development or business) to dissuade him and, after looking into it, it would make the direct goal easier, but with a much higher learning curve. – Gnomejon Jun 30 '16 at 20:41
  • @Gnomejon - So ask your boss to send you to training. If you don't know JavaScript well enough to learn on your own, request a college course be paid for, so you can then bring back that knowledge to the firm. If that isn't an option ask for the training materials, and the time to study the material, while on the job. You should also take this opportunity to learn outside of work, in order to learn more, and grow as a programmer. – Donald Jul 2 '16 at 8:44
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I would say that your best friend is communication. You have to remember that IT is, by nature, not an easy occupation. Almost everyone in this field is constantly learning. It is regular and acceptable (especially for a junior) software developer to feel like you are in over your head. Your main priority should be to ensure that management knows your status. Chances are, given your age and the past three months of work that is familiar, simply telling your boss that you are in over your head and need lots of time to complete the project and teach yourself won't make him see you as incompetent. In fact, you'll probably even gain points for having the humility and lucidity to clearly communicate your position. I would suggest that you start there, and continue to be diligent in learning and applying yourself. Use every resource available to you, and make sure your supervisor knows that you are on new turf, and fighting hard to conquer it.

  • I just recently had the talk with my supervisor about it, and he was very understanding. Thanks for the advice! – Gnomejon Jul 25 '16 at 20:18
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Learn from it then

If your boss is giving you that job alone, and not mounting you with other tasks (like too much sending back and forth) that affect the time you're on the job too, then this gives YOU good time to learn a lot more than just the programming tools given in this project.

1. Apply Development Concepts

Ask to use this project as a total learning curve to apply best practices for your development career, like SLDC, documentation (like JIRA and Confluence). Since there is no actual deadline, show your boss that you can use this time to learn other aspects of development, and introduce them to this organization, whilst still achieving the goal. This will help you pass the time gladly because you'll be adding to your wealth of experience.

2. Quantify your work

Break down the project, documenting this, and make it known to your boss which parts of it you foresee quickly achievable, and ones you may find difficult and thus require more knowledge gathering. The more he sees the work you achieve, the likely he will find it easy to adequately allocate resources to help you get it done quickly.

3. Learn more programming tools / languages

Use this time to research and compare alternatives in the same bracket as the languages he chose for you.

If you pull this off, your boss may well like you more, and make you his programming partner, more than a subordinate.

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