Thank you for reading. I am a fairly new employee who has been with a large insurance company for 3 months. I have aspirations of becoming an actuary and have cultivated many skills related to that career. One of my best skills is in programming and working with Excel. The problem is that I was hired on as a filing analyst and don't have much opportunity to use my skills within the scope of the job itself. My supervisor made it clear that even though the job position isn't glamorous, if I come up with creative solutions for the filing department, they would be well received.

I started making simple applications that led to a larger project demo that I presented to my supervisor who showed it to his supervisor who in turn asked me to present the demo to their mutual supervisor. Long story short - they were impressed and I'm being asked to write out the development plans for my project. They want deadlines, milestones, training, design details, etc.

Keep in mind, I'm technically just a filing analyst. This is my first major software project that I would be designing for a company. I have no clue how this process works, I want to make sure that I don't undercut myself in the details because the work put into this should be worth more than my normal salary. Before this project I've been told that I am in line for a raise, and if I pass another actuarial exam I will be in line for a promotion to the actuarial department. All of that is great, but what about the extra work I'm putting into this project now? I'm designing the entire thing by myself and it's a huge undertaking.

I just want to know what is acceptable for me to ask for? Can I put a price tag on this project? I feel like just accepting the raise/promotion is an undercut because of the size of this task and the work I put in and out of work on it. What are your thoughts?

  • You face essentially the same decision as I faced in 1970, programmer or actuary. I chose programmer, and have never regretted it. I do think you need to focus on one or the other. To do either, you have a lot of studying ahead of you, and trying to do both may prevent success at either. – Patricia Shanahan Nov 9 '16 at 8:36
  • Beware committing in deadlines, designs etc. Things are going to change and your estimates are going to be hilariously wrong. This is especially the case for beginners, but it applies to everyone. – Nathan Cooper Nov 11 '16 at 8:41

If you're being given work time to do it then it's theirs. If you're doing it in your on time then it's debatable. But to me this doesn't sound billable separately.

I'm sure you're doing a great job at it, but you're not a professional or a consultant. I'm not a programmer but I write a bit of code to test ideas and make proof of concept applications and see how viable a framework is for a project. It takes me quite a while but I learn a bit and it only costs me time. Following me however are professional programmers who probably laugh their heads off at my efforts and fix my stuff up in hardly any time at all (which costs me a lot less than if I paid them to do it from scratch).

My point is that unless you're an expert you can't really quantify your work in terms of hours or efficiency in comparison to an expert.

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    I see your point. The super said he wants to treat my project like one of the other IT projects and the fact that they want things in writing made me question the details a little bit more. – Seraphim Nov 9 '16 at 4:48
  • @Seraphim I wouldn't ask them or put a price unless they requested one. But it may be a positive sign that they're contemplating recompensing you in some way (perhaps not money, but could well be), in any case it's a big feather in your cap. – Kilisi Nov 9 '16 at 5:30

When it gets to the desk of the IT professionals in the organization, the words "programming" and "Excel" are mutually exclusive. Excel is okay for a workgroup-sized solution, but if the discussion starts including entire departments or an organization, Excel worksheets are not a tool that scale up very well for enterprise-level use. But - it's there. IT departments have to tolerate it because it's on everyone's desktop. Same for Microsoft Access, or VBA solutions with Word or Powerpoint.

So you have this thing, but you also have to understand the vision of the highest supervisor who's seen it and been agreeable to it. How will it grow? Who will maintain it? How will you coordinate distributing changed versions of it to others? Where will different versions be stored (so you can go back to old ones, if needed)? Who's responsible, with each release, for making sure it's working correctly? Is is user-proofed? (in other words, can someone else mess up your code?) If you don't have these answers, then just be prepared to hand it off to someone in IT who can. I'm not expressing this here to be mean or with ill intent. This is just how things work in a corporate situation.

If it's not apparent, I'm a developer. I remember getting hired for some contract work for Wells Fargo's mortgage division before the 2008 real estate bubble. Some of their clerks came up with a super-fast way of automating data entry into their mortgage application running on an old-fashioned green screen. But they lacked the expertise to make it happen right for the entire mortgage division, so it got handed off to me and about 10 other guys to modify and implement all over California. The clerks probably got a few bucks and a pat-on-the-back.

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