6

Quick history

Graduated 6 months ago in Computer Science (with a first), been working for 4 months taking my first job offer as a junior tester / support engineer.

I am 2 months away from my first 6 month review. This review will state if I have passed my probation (which I am expecting to) along with a usual performance review.

The problem

I hate my current job. The role is 65% testing and 35% customer support. The testing is mundane (often manual testing) and I seriously despise customer support. I often feel that I am rotting away, which is seriously worrying to me as I aspire to become a software developer.

Why did I take the job?

Financial reasons, naivety and not realizing what I wanted to do. But I now know that development is what I want to get involved in.

The review

As I said, the review is coming up. I have always given it 100% and my manager/director has always said how happy he is with my work. I have hinted that the development interests me, even proposing to formalize my lunchtime-developed script which has literally saved me and my colleague 5-20mins per day. I also suggested some other possible-useful in-houses software which would be extremely beneficial (and achievable) that I could develop during our quiet periods (which are plenty) - but he flat out refused and ended up giving me a tonne of terrible jobs.

I am at the stage now that I am prepared to walk out if I won't get an opportunity to get showcase what I can really do and get a chance in development. I know the company is actively looking at developers, and a few months ago I did overhear them discussing a junior developer, but he said they needed someone experienced. However, as they have already invested in me, I think I could have a much stronger case at getting the role.

How can I give them and myself the best possible chance to reach an agreement with my manager? I would somehow need to get across (politely) that given the chance I am prepared to study in my own time/do homework etc to learn the technologies but also that I will hand in my notice if they don't offer me a new role as a junior developer - with the promise of development.

Do I even stand a chance?

  • 3
    Is it possible to automate tests and become skilled in test infrastructure? – user42272 Oct 13 '16 at 0:12
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    @laconic-droid the wording of the title may be slightly off-putting, but the rest of the question clears that up nicely IMO. OP pretty clearly stated that they are willing to quit if this opportunity isn't considered, so yes I think they are in a position to make this demand (politely, as they also stated). – user30031 Oct 13 '16 at 2:27
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    "I seriously despise customer support" - be aware that you're going to find very few development positions that don't involve at least some support work. The customers pay your wages, you need to change your attitude a bit and be prepared to do what it takes to keep them happy. – Julia Hayward Oct 13 '16 at 7:35
17

You're young. I know that sounds condescending but it's true. You might not like hearing it and I know you hate being reminded of it but it's necessary.

4 months is nothing.

The reason that's important to remember is because you're acting like you're in such an awful situation because you hate this job you've barely had. You describe yourself as "rotting away" when you've hardly just begun (in the grand scheme of a career).

You've twice talked about quitting in that you are "prepared to walk out" and you will "hand in [your] notice" as though it's some kind of a legitimate threat to them. Let me assure you, that it's not because 4 months is nothing.

You're under the belief that you have a "much stronger case" in getting a development position because they "invested in [you]". Believe it or not, you actually have a much weaker case for the following reasons:

  • They have invested in you as a tester which investment would be largely discarded if you became a developer.
  • You're unhappy with your job after only 4 months. They have no way of knowing you will be unhappy as a developer in another 4 months. You appear indecisive at best, unreliable at worst.
  • They will be out a tester which is something they need, else they wouldn't have hired you. That means they'll have to replace you and train someone else.
  • You still have no tangible experience as a developer. Your company will be trading a skilled tester for an untested developer with no experience. They could end up having to replace you twice.

You may be talented and eventually you may be able to sling code better than John Carmack. But right now you're not even a junior developer, you're entry-level. You're in no position to make demands and while your company may not want to replace you, they won't really care if they do. You can't deal when you aren't holding any cards and you're not only empty-handed you just sat down at the table.

Conclusions

Youth isn't a bad thing but what you need is perspective. You'll discover soon enough that 4 months in a crappy job isn't that big a deal when you find yourself in a crappy job out of necessity, whether it's a bad economy or personal circumstance. It happens to all of us. So the first thing you need to do is relax. You're not rotting. You're not stagnating. You could spend the next 5 years in that job being a junior tester and you still wouldn't be rotten. You might feel beaten down, but you'd still have the vast majority of your career ahead of you. So relax, take a step back and plan.

Aside from your youth, what I notice more than anything is that not once did you say that you liked the company. You talked about your job and your boss but you never once said that you liked the company. So let me ask you this, Why do you want to stay? If it's because of the 4 months, forget it. 4 months is...well, you get the point by now.

The Advice

Keep your job, do a good job so you'll always have a good reference. When you have your review, don't beat around the bush but ask your boss directly about a junior developer position (if that's where you'd like to work). He might even ask "where do you see yourself?" or a similar question. If an opportunity doesn't present itself, bring it up and ask. Whatever you do, don't demand and don't threaten. You really have no room to negotiate and the last thing you want to do is hint to them that you're willing to leave. If he says he wants you to be a tester, just smile dumbly and say "ok" and try to act satisfied.

Start looking for an entry level developer position. You've already tried to get your boss to head in that direction and he flatly refused. You need to be somewhere you're appreciated as a developer not a tester. Honestly, if they make you a developer, the pressure there will be even higher because you've cost them a tester.

Network. Network. Network. User groups, job fairs, everything. Get to know as many people as you can and try to find work through your new contacts.

If you're as good as you say you are, you'll find work and you'll thrive. Just keep trying, don't get frustrated and above all be patient.

  • 1
    Off-topic, but I don't think the idea of 'wait 'until you have paid your due' is going to go over well as we answer more questions from the latest generation entering the workforce. Times are (perhaps) changing and that sort of advice will be viewed as the out-dated philosophy of the old-gaurd (so to speak). – user30031 Oct 13 '16 at 2:31
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    This advice is harsh, but entirely fair. Software testing is an entirely appropriate entry to software development and you have to go through the process of learning how software works, what the user expects, and how testing works. When you have a firm understanding of testing, you'll be in a much better position to develop software. All software developers also have to test, and understand how their software will be used and tested. Use this testing role as a foundation, not an obstacle. – Snow Oct 13 '16 at 6:17
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    Thank you for your fantastic answer. I guess I am being inpatient but I should definitely be making the most of this opportunity. I really like your advice, I think discussing and showing willingness to work with him (in a positive manner) is the best approach. Worse case, he says no and I can then think about moving on with positive reference (albeit short). – boywonder Oct 13 '16 at 6:40
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    It might well be worth self-teaching yourself and creating some phone apps in your own time (with your own software and hardware). This will give you a decent start. Be aware that the review period is judging your methodology, attitude and professionalism as well as your technical ability (and just getting the job done). Good luck with it! – Snow Oct 13 '16 at 7:08
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    @boywonder You do not have to stay in a job you hate for years to become a software developer. I had a job doing actual development before I even graduated. I would not take a job that had me spending a third of my time on customer support. I agree that you shouldn't bother to make threats, but you definitely should not sit around in your current position for five years. That's pure insanity. – Kat Oct 16 '16 at 12:13
8

While you may be energetic and enthusiastic, you simply don't have the experience. College does not count. As an instructor of mine told the class "Every last practical piece of business software would get an "F" if turned in for college credit", and he added that the internet itself would get a failing grade.

Stick it out and talk to your managers and supervisors about a career path and what the best way would be for you to shift roles within the company.

Be humble, not demanding. Ask for help in advancing your career as opposed to demanding an advancement. It will go much better for you.

  • 2
    Never demand, it is counterproductive. Asking works much better. The OP especially needs to pay attention to that last paragraph. – HLGEM Oct 12 '16 at 20:57
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    @RichardU thank you so much for another great answer. Unfortunately I can only accept one but you certainly deserve credit. I especially like your last two paragraphs. I think giving him the opportunity to support me in my career rather than demanding it is extremely smart (duh!). I could argue that regardless of approach, he will ultimately have to decide a yes or no, however, the manner, the willingness and the effects on my long-term goals (if he does support me positively not forcibly) would drastically change. . – boywonder Oct 13 '16 at 18:09
  • @boywonder thank you. I mean it sincerely. Many of us, especially in IT started out as clever wunderkinds What we all needed to learn was the wisdom associated with the field. Knowing when to throw the book out, et cetera. There's an old joke about the difference between knowledge and wisdom: Knowledge is knowing that a Tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not using it in a fruit salad. – Richard U Oct 14 '16 at 12:10
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Do I even stand a chance?

As they say - there's always a chance!

Still, it's unlikely that your 4 months of experience now gives you much of a chance if they already indicated they "needed someone experienced". And certainly "demanding" a new role by threatening to "hand in your notice" is unlikely to result in a positive outcome.

Instead, you might want to approach this as more of a career development question.

Something like "I've been giving this job 100%, but I have come to realize that what I really want is an entry-level or junior developer role. Can we talk about how I might go about getting there?"

That way, you are keeping it more open-ended. And you are not simply giving an ultimatum.

In many of the shops where I have worked, I have seen newbies start out in testing and/or customer support roles. Some of the good ones did a great job in their roles, demonstrated that they are great employees, and showed interest and aptitude outside of their initial roles. And some of those ended up getting moved to a role they wanted more. Typically that move never happened before a year or two.

If you can't be patient, it may be time to see what kind of job you could land elsewhere, then hand in your notice. If you can be patient, your company and product knowledge could eventually put you in a position to make the transition you are seeking.

Either way, don't just quit until you carefully think through what you really want and land that next job. Otherwise, you could once again end up taking an undesirable job for financial reasons.

  • Finally got round to commenting here but again, your answer deserves full credit and I can't thank you enough for putting in your time and effort! I really like your approach and I will definitely be using it when my review comes up. Also I will make sure to have a concrete plan before I decide to take action, making the same twice would be disastrous. – boywonder Oct 14 '16 at 17:20

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