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I am being asked to provide an estimate for a project that was formerly headed by a highly skilled developer who was training me that left the company. I didn't have a lot of time to train with her and I would still consider myself a novice developer. In that time though, I have taken on numerous other more high level roles where I basically haven't been directly doing any code but more doing a lot of work that assists the developers who are on the team as well as management. Officially, my role would involve me doing some development but I'm unsure since there have been a few management changes how aware of this my manager is or if it's really an issue (since job titles are often loosely associated with what you actually do).

Usually I work on a few specific long term tasks that require a lot of my attention, but I often times assist with details on work that other developers on my team work and I do a lot of administrative work related to applications that my manager is unfamiliar with that I am (I have been on my team for several years, whereas my manager has only been on our team for a few months). I do a lot of work that I have been praised by others both on my team and in other areas, but I haven't worked much in an IDE in a long time and especially not related to any tasks. Sometimes I'll get in to check on something that isn't documented so it can be documented, but that is usually the extent of it.

My manager is asking me to give an estimate in effort months of how long this development project will take, my guess being that she is assuming that even if I am not doing the work that I am technically proficient enough to know what the work level should be so it could be delegated to the other developers. I feel that for something like this, I really need one of those developers to provide the estimate since they - along with the other developers - will be doing the work and not me but my concern is that it will make me look bad since these developers are junior roles compared to me - though they have been with the company for longer than I have.

I would hate to give an unrealistic estimate based on what the other developers can or can't do and have it reflect poorly on me or on them and their ability, but I feel like it's expected that I can provide this estimate. I gave a tentative one already (which I thought was maybe too long) and she thought it would be at least that long, but wanted me to revise it to consider a few other aspects after reviewing with a senior developer outside of our team.

  • Are you able to present the information to the team first, get their input, and then provide the estimate? – Mister Positive Feb 24 '17 at 12:03
  • It's just an estimate. Hopefully, you can come up with something closer than your boss can. Include the level of accuracy you feel you have +/- 10%. Also, everyone should know what the risks are if the estimate is off (e.g. not enough money gets budgeted, client cancels or asks for discount if not delivered on time, etc.). – user8365 Feb 24 '17 at 14:36
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You're worrying too much.

First of all, sit down with your manager and make sure that there are no misunderstandings as far as your responsibilities are concerned. This is critical. If she's not aware, explain that you don't do much actual development, and instead support the team by performing other responsibilities (have a list on hand - I would make it resume style, with action verbs leading the description)

As far as the estimate is concerned, there's no shame in not being an expert. You do, however, have experts on hand, and you should take advantage of that! Go ask the team how long they think Project X would take to complete. See what different people answer (some might say 2 months, others 5).

Hey guys, management wants to know how long Project X would take to implement. What's your rough estimate?

Record their answers, and either average them out, or pick the most pessimistic one (better to give a 5 month estimate and have it take 3, than a 2 month estimate and have it take 5).

With time you'll develop a better sense of how long things should take. In the future, if asked for an estimate, it's better to say that you have to check with the team and get back to her than to give a flawed estimate (I'm going to guess that your estimate sounded off to her, and that's why she asked you to run your number by someone else)

There's no reason why you should be so stressed out about this.

  • It's generally better to ask the team what they think instead of making something up. The people doing the work can probably estimate better how long it'll take them than you can. – Erik Feb 24 '17 at 7:25
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    Good answer, I would actually put the onus on the team, 'I spoke to XYX about this and they reckon 2 months minimum', so with their input and my estimate of other variables... etc,... especially if I had no idea myself, and had to work with other peoples data. – Kilisi Feb 24 '17 at 10:04
  • I ended up speaking with my boss and she was ok with my level of technical knowledge, so it seems my concern was unfounded. I plan to communicate with the developers and get their feel on it after getting an idea of technical direction from the senior developer I will speak to. I'll gauge their comfort level and add on to their estimate for additional overhead they may not take into account (I'll be sure to clarify with their estimate). – Vistance Feb 24 '17 at 22:18

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