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I was newly hired as a developer. The process took around 1 month and after signing the contract I was asked to report to work 2 weeks later. For several weeks now I'm only reading documentation (language features, frameworks...).

Several days ago I was given the project to look through (study). I tried to look at some code, but I'm not exactly sure how I'm supposed to understand the project only by looking at the code. I'm bored because I don't get any practical tasks and I don't think all this documentation is doing me any good (seeing as I don't apply anything in practice - only tried some basic examples and I don't remember most of what I'm reading).

The manager said they are setting up my accounts and stuff like that, but much time has passed already. Is this a normal practice? It's difficult for me to think of challenging tasks and I feel it's a waste being involved in nothing practical.

Is my experience normal for a new developer?

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This happens all the time in govt and some companies. They have a budget for 10 programmers, so they hire 10 programmers, finding work for them all is sometimes a problem, but that's another issue.

If they don't hire 10 programmers, their budget will get smaller next time it's reviewed.

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    Timing of hiring can be hard to do. Do you only start hiring after you already need people and potentially fall behind schedule right away or do you start hiring because you know you will need people at the risk of not having ready work for them as they arrive? – Dunk Jul 6 '16 at 17:42
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Sounds like you are working for a big multinational. Onboarding can be slow and complicated when there are ridiculous hoops to jump through. It's boring trying to come up to speed without access to the right tools. Any sane manager would like you to be brought up to speed as soon as possible however in many organizations (including mine) processes that take weeks to complete cannot be initiated until your official start date.

Relax this isn't a huge red flag that they will never give you anything interesting. It is a huge red flag that this organization is a bureaucracy and you should be prepared for dealing with red tape often.

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This can be normal, depending largely on the company and your experience. When I first got into development, and I thought I was a hotshot but was actually really terrible at my job (not saying this is you), I was hired into a company that did something similar with me.

The thing was that they knew I was new, and did not have many of the skills they were looking for, but they saw potential. So, this company hired droves of developers based on this criteria on the cheap, kept them around basically letting us collect a cheque while training us and hoping that we'd improve. Then roughly a year into it, HR walked through our department like lions on the hunt and dragged dozens of people who didn't make the cut out the front door.

Now, I'm not saying this is necessarily what you're going through, but this a reasonable explanation. They're wanting to invest in you and develop your skills, while simultaneously making you familiar with their code base and tools, hoping that the potential they see will blossom.

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It can be hard to onboard a new person into a project. Typically you will be asked to read documentation until your accounts are setup. You should remember a strong developer should be able to "read" code to gain an understanding of the existing implementation, but just reading the code for a large-scale project is very difficult even for skilled developers. You have to pair the code with well-written documentation or mentorship.

Given that you have read the documentation and the source code, I would write down a list of questions about the existing system you are trying to understand and experiment if you are able to answer the questions yourself. If not, ask to work with a senior developer to answer these questions. If the documentation is lacking, start with refining the existing documentation or writing new ones.

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I do not believe this is normal, however I have heard stories like this happening from time to time in big companies. Big companies sometimes seem to be able to afford this waste of resources and manpower to a greater extend than smaller companies do. When a certain amount of budget becomes available, a department of a bigger company might choose to hire a developer even if there is no immediate work for him or her.

I think you have done the right think to ask for a task. I would do this again (in a polite way of course) if the situation does not change. Perhaps you can look for another person to talk to. A 'non technical' manager might no be the right person.

If this situation does not change over a longer period of time, think about joining a smaller company. But they will have other pecularities which are different to those of bigger companies.

Ideally you join a company where someone works that you know, so you already have insider information so to speak. But of course this is not always feasible.

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