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Let's say an exciting project is coming down the pipe and you feel that you are the right person to develop it rather than another colleague. How do you professionally convince your boss or higher management that you are the right fit for it without talking bad behind your colleague?

Background story:

I am a software developer in a small R&D company and have been here 3.5 years. Most of my job is to design software that operators use to interact with our tools. I also have a colleague (who has been here 1.5 years) and his work is mostly FW and circuit design. He has written c++ code that barely reads a text file and plots the graphs. It does not have UI, it is not scalable and is not efficient.

Our company wants to develop a new software product that plots our tool's data and it seems that the management wants to assign him to this project just because of his experience with plots!

In my case I can elaborate on the following positive aspects of my work:

  • I write scalable low maintenance code, (the software that he has written is not scalable, he spends a lot of time managing it, every time that someone asks him to make a change he keeps nagging and arguing as to why they want this change.)
  • I have a better understanding of user needs and the UI flow
  • I actually have experience in developing UI,
  • I have done a lot of plotting/graphing software before, just not in this company (and to be honest the plotting part is the easiest piece of it).
  • I already have created the software that reads the tool's memory and generates text files, so I need less time developing it (I am sure that this guy will just go ahead with a sample text file and down the road will insist on me modifying an existing software's output to match his input)
  • I can deliver the project on time, but he has already received two warnings for missing deadlines. This looks like that I am helping him.

The things that seems to be a downside for me:

  • Management has not seen the plots that I have created before,
  • I am busy with another project right now which will finish in two weeks. I know that this project is not supposed to start even in a month or so.

I think a situation like this can happen in a lot of environments and a lot of fields not only software development.

Note:

This question does not seem to be a duplicate of these:

Update:

Today I spoke with my supervisor, I took Andrei and Chris G's advice and did not talk about how do I compare with other, I spoke about how I am good for it and was told that yes, we can definitely have you (me) on the project.

Thanks Guys.

  • @JoeStrazzere He is supposed to know it but after 3.5 years he could have forgotten this. Also, I just remembered that I have done something similar in the first few weeks of starting to work here that Technicians use widely. – AleX_ Oct 3 '16 at 22:33
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This is a tricky situation. The first thing you have to understand is that technical competency is is only half - and perhaps the less important half - of the issue.

The main concerns here are Perception, Visibility, and Office Politics.

If this other person, though less skilled, is perceived as being very competent, then he has a major advantage over someone with less visibility, or with less of a proven track record.

Furthermore, if he simply gets along better with management than you (if he is someone's protege, or golfing buddy), then he is far more likely to get the project regardless of any other logical factors weighting in your favor.

Is it fair? No. But that doesn't change reality, or human nature.

Now, then. How might you convince your boss to give you the project instead?

Assuming that you have a shot to change their minds, build a business case. Ask for a private meeting with you boss, and go in there with a document outlining exactly why you're the better person for the job. Treat it exactly as you would a job interview, and prepare a resume/portfolio highlighting the skills which make you the right man for the job. Do not, at any time, compare yourself with your coworker, or even bring him up. Always speak of your own qualifications, and nothing more:

Hi boss, I've heard about the exciting new project which the company is undertaking, and I'd like to talk to you about it. You see, I really feel that I have the perfect skill set and experience to tackle it, and if you give me just 5 minutes of your time, I'd like to prove that to you.

(If he refuses you can still ask to leave the document you've prepared with him and maybe he will look it over later, and give you another shot)

Here's the kicker, however: your boss may not appreciate this little presentation.

Some managers may feel that you're second guessing their judgement, and thus calling their decision making abilities into question. Even worse, your boss may have backed your coworker for the project, and admitting that he was wrong, or made a politically motivated choice, would make him look bad.

You know your company/boss best, so you're the best person to judge your chances, but keep all these things in mind before you initiate this conversation.

  • Thanks Andrei for the hints about the behind the scenes stuff. However, I am certain that this is not the case. – AleX_ Oct 3 '16 at 17:29
  • @Alex - glad that's not the case in your situation! Be sure to speak to your boss as soon as possible, and I hope you get the project! – AndreiROM Oct 3 '16 at 17:35
  • That's the plan for this afternoon, I'd like to wait couple of more hours to see what others say. Last week when this idea was popped for the very first time, I show great passion and started to elaborate it for my supervisor. Maybe I should ask him to convince the upper management about it as well. – AleX_ Oct 3 '16 at 17:46
  • This will be my strategy, 1) Have a some screenshots ready from my previous work, 2) talk to my boss, 2.5) ask if him or upper management have made any decisions, 4) elaborate my +'s for this project. anyway. If he said it was not my call and CEO's decision. Is it ok to ask my supervisor to talk to him? – AleX_ Oct 3 '16 at 17:48
  • @Alex - I wouldn't ask if a decision's been made, because if it has, they will simply end the conversation right there, before you've had a chance to highlight your skills. As for asking your supervisor to take up your cause, if you convince him that you're a good fit then I would hope that he would do this of his own volition, but again, i have no idea what the office politics in your company might be. – AndreiROM Oct 3 '16 at 17:57
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Don't even mention your colleague. Don't allude to things you do that he can't (i.e. do NOT say "I write scalable code, unlike Colleague" or "unlike some other developers who may be in consideration." wink wink nudge nudge).

The conversation isn't about who is better, it should be about why you're great! Why you would be a good fit. Why they should trust you to accomplish it.

First things first, you need to make sure they know you're aware of and interested in the project. Expressing an interest in tackling a new product/problem/experience puts you above 90% of folks.

Second, focus on your strengths. You have a good understanding of your customers wants and needs. You've proven it by delivering high quality customer-facing software. This new product is customer facing, and you think your experience would help.

You have a proven record of writing high quality, scalable code. Point to your metrics (low defect counts, positive performance/load tests, etc.) If you don't have metrics, look at what data you have available to you and create some (Holy cow, you're now management/leadership material).

If you make some charts of metrics data, you've just proven that you know how to build charts/plot data.

Point out that your current project should complete before this new project kicks off. That shows that you're forward thinking and care about completing your current tasking, not just trying to jump to the new hotness.

  • Thanks Chris for the answer, and your tip about making it all about me – AleX_ Oct 3 '16 at 17:27

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