7

I'm 6 months into a new job that uses a technology I've had no experience in (but am trying really hard to learn). Often I get tasks that I have real difficulty with. I flag this: I say that I've never done that before and I'll have difficulty. I get some help, but the task always takes way longer than estimated and is done pretty badly. This puts me under a huge amount of stress and is embarrassing as my tasks often get rejected at QA.

I'm all for learning but its just too much. I need to master things incrementally, not all at once. Or else do a proper course on the subject.

How can I talk to my boss about this without looking like I'm useless or backing away from challenges?

  • Do you know why the people you're getting help from aren't the ones being assigned these tasks? Are they too busy? – SPavel Mar 31 '17 at 1:56
  • @SPavel well we use the agile development system to give tasks a time rating. The people who I am to ask still have their own workloads that don't allow them time to sit next to me and train me. – MeltingDog Mar 31 '17 at 1:59
  • Is your concern that people are doubting your ability? Or that this style of on-the-job learning isn't working for you? What you describe is perfectly normal for a developer who's new to a company, let alone a technology. If you are growing more familiar with the way they do things and are making fewer and smaller mistakes as time goes by then this approach is working and doesn't need to be changed. Is this just about the perception issue? If so, have you gotten any indication that you are not performing as people expect you to? – Lilienthal Mar 31 '17 at 7:46
  • @Lilienthal I think both. I feel that I was hired to do something, but am not able to do it. Also, I don't really think the style of on-the-job learning is good as my work is still compared with those of experienced people. I can ask questions when I get stuck, but usually the answers are only about the problem I am facing right then and there. To me, it feels like a 'teach a man to fish' situation. They can solve a problem for me, or they can teach me why there is a problem in the first place. It could be a perception issue, but I dont really have anything to compare to. – MeltingDog Apr 3 '17 at 22:53
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Your boss probably knows that this is new tech for you, and that your results take longer and are less robust. As you say in your comment, the real experts are just too busy - you're all he's got. Thus, don't assume that you are performing below expectations, because you're not expected to have mastered the technology.

Your boss might also think that the best way for you to master the technology is to dive head-first into it. A lot of people don't realize that other people think differently, and learn differently! It's up to you to let your boss know that you think a different way would be more effective.

When you speak to your boss, focus on the positives, and have a plan:

  1. Identify the opportunity for improvement in a positive light: "Hey boss, I want to get better at [technology] so I can do my work faster."
  2. Propose a course of action. "There's a course on [technology] at [resource]; if I am expected to work with this technology for the foreseeable future, I think it would be beneficial for me to take this course."
  3. Tell your boss what you'd like him to do about it. "I was wondering if I could expense the cost of [resource] to the company."

This makes you look like a person that's willing to learn, but is also assertive and understands what needs to be done.

  • Great answer but for the last point I think the OP should first look at his working contract , in some countries (ex France) you can accumulate training hours while working for a company so the course he'll ask for might HAVE to be paid by the company. If not , he could also come with the fact that it'll help him to work better and faster which will avoid being late on projects and will make the company earn some more money. I think that coming straight to your boss asking him to pay for the course is a bad idea. – Rolexel Mar 31 '17 at 8:57
1

I know I am going out a bit on a limb here, but I do want to draw attention to your statement that

the task always takes way longer than estimated and is done pretty badly.

TL;DR: Talk to whoever is assigning tasks, and when you are assigned a task, give them your best estimate for how long you will need to complete the task. Then let that person decide whether that amount of time is reasonable, or if the particular task should be assigned to someone more experienced.

First, this answer hinges on the fact that you do mention to those who are assigning you tasks that you will have difficulty with them, and that this is accepted. Particularly in a junior role, even if only with a specific technology stack, that really should be accepted; nobody can expect someone who has only worked with a technology stack and a mass of source code for half a year to be as productive as someone who has been doing the same for years.

The second half of your statement is obviously due to lack of experience with the technology stack. It sounds like you are doing some kind of programming, in which case: just remember that it is perfectly normal for early attempts to suck (except if you are designing a vacuum cleaner, in which case it is normal for later attempts to suck more). If you can look at code you wrote half a year or a year ago and not ask yourself "who would write code this ugly?", then you aren't improving. It comes with the job; don't sweat it. Just do your best and keep trying to improve.

The first half of your statement, though, is one that you can deal with directly.

Let's say that there is another programmer, named Joe Hacker, at your workplace. You and Joe work together when Joe has time to help you out, but unfortunately, Joe is regularly swamped with other tasks and so you are asked to take on some of the work. Joe has been with the company, and worked on the code base, for many years, and code just flies out of his fingers as he is typing, never seems to have a single bug and is trivial to modify or extend when the need arises.

Your boss, scrum-master, project manager, team lead or whatever the title, Jane Manager, asks for a time estimate for some particular task. Joe answers that it should be completed in two days, and Jane assigns it to you because Joe is busy with other things. But you know from your own experience that with the technology stack involved, you regularly need two to three times the time that Joe needs, to get a task done. (Obviously, adjust this part to match reality in your particular case.)

At that point, if not before (depending on how estimates are given), you raise that with Jane. Tell her that the two days estimate might be accurate for Joe, but it isn't accurate for you. Offer your best estimate at what the task will take for you to complete: about a week.

Now, Jane has a choice to make. She can either let you do the task in question (knowing that it will take longer than if Joe did it, but that hopefully the gap will close as you gain more experience), or she can wait for Joe to be free to take it, or the requirement that the task be done can be dropped, or something else that Joe is working on can be de-emphasized in favor of the new task. In all but the first of these cases, Jane chooses another task to assign to you. That is her role in all of this.

Now, this would obviously look bad from someone with a lot of experience with the technology and a solid track record under their belt. But you currently don't have either. As long as you are continually improving, and trying to improve, this should not be a major cause for concern.

Just give whoever assigns the task to you your best estimate at how long you will need to complete the task, and let them decide whether spending that time on it is a reasonable business decision. Then do your best to meet the estimate you gave.

As for the quality assurance team, their job is to poke holes in what you have done, so that the customers don't need to encounter those problems! As long as the bugs they find are not consistently in the specific use cases described in the original feature request (which means you didn't do your part of testing before handing your work over to QA), you should consider bug reports from QA a favor and an opportunity to improve your work. Getting bug reports from QA during testing absolutely beats getting bug reports from customer support in the live environment.

You can and should also consider what you can do, and what the company can do for you, to help you gain the experience sooner; and you should discuss that with your boss (who may or may not be the Jane above). But it is better to give a reasonably accurate estimate of how long something will take and let whoever is in charge decide whether that is a good use of the time, than to commit to an estimate you know is unlikely to hold. Nobody reasonable should be upset if you say four days and it ends up taking four days plus two hours, but they probably will have cause to be upset if you regularly commit to two days and it ends up taking a week.

  • This is an excellent answer, but a little long and hard to parse. I think it would be improved by a little formatting and concise trimming. – heathenJesus Apr 1 '17 at 15:53
  • @heathenJesus I'm not sure what extra formatting you feel this answer needs (I already did use formatting to emphasize the important parts), but I did add a TL;DR. If you can be a bit more concrete on what (additional) changes you feel are needed, it would be easier to see how I could work such changes into the answer. – a CVn Apr 1 '17 at 19:17
0

A less confrontational way to address this is to ask your boss to help you understand why he thinks you can handle these tasks. The other part of this discussion is to help clarify expectations. Who knows, you may find that they really don't expect you to handle this, but you're there only hope at the moment. Do your best.

Even if you were given tasks you can easily perform, you always want to know what is expected of you from your immediate supervisor. I always suggest focusing on meeting his expectations. It will make your job more successful in the short and long-term.

Since you're new to the job, there are many aspects I think you're misunderstanding and putting too much pressure on yourself because so far, you've never mentioned anyone complaining or giving you negative feedback.

Estimates - these are educated guesses when you think something might be completed. There is always risk involved. Again, these are guesses and not contractual guarantees. You will get better at this, but you need to understand what is the whole point. It would be silly for you to just start saying things will take twice as long just so you appear to be right. Someone claiming they can do a two hour job in four and expecting be to get excited because the did it in three is not being very honest or transparent.

Q&A - If anyone expects you to be perfect, they wouldn't have to go through this. You need to make sure you're not repeating the same mistakes. Strive for improvement. Do not get into the mindset that having mistakes is such a bad thing. You have to stretch your skills.

I realize all of this is frustrating for you, but it will get better. You'll improve your skills along with your confidence which will help you cope with the job. You also need to learn how to discuss things with your supervisor and find out what their expectations and ways of evaluating your performance. Then you'll know if you're doing things right.

Your company isn't throwing you in the deep end to see if you can swim, they're throwing you off a cliff to see if you can fly.

-2

If you're new to a workplace, it is the time when you will suffer a bit, because first, you need to understand how the office work, and how much pressure you can handle.

At first, you need to prioritize your job, if you're not comfortable with your domain or seems new to you list out it in a piece of paper, and start learning.

I know it doesn't work, but there are no other options for you, a person masters a subject when he devotes himself to it or tries his hand out of his comfort zone.

Here is the area which is out of your comfort zone, stick to it.

Although, if you still find it difficult then you can talk to your superior officers or with your boss in a polite way.

Are there any office party happen - you can talk about it that time as well, it would be a casual talk too.

Thanks

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