Short version:

I am a student employee who applied for frontend development and have no experience the specific programming language nor framework. My employer, not familiar with what I exactly have to do, wants me to build a simple website (but full stack) as the first task within 2-3 weeks with 15h per week. I have a strong gut feeling that I won't make it in time and would like to tell him as soon as possible. How?

Long version:

I am a student employee and will start working in IT by next week. In my job interview we worked out what I am capable of and I said that, as stated in my application letter, I want to do frontend development. They convinced me of also handling a bit of DevOps (deployment of the server, installing and updating needed packages). I have 1 year of web development experience in Django (university projects). Since I have done DevOps with the latter in the past I thought I could handle it. My future boss also asked me how long it would take me to complete the task of making a website in their desired language and framework, which I am not familiar with.

I replied that I didn't have the appropriate experience and could only guess out of the blue. After he (has never done any programming) said it should be probably done between 2 to 6 weeks I said maybe 4 weeks could be a robust estimate.

At the end of my interview he stated that my boss' boss asks for that website on a daily basis and we should be able to show the "website without being ashamed of it" in 2.5 weeks.

A couple of hours I had a few doubts. What I actually have to do is: learn the language (PHP), learn WordPress, deploy and install WordPress and then "create" the website. By that I mean find a fitting theme for the already existing design of the company's design team or build a custom theme together with their design team. Even though it is a simple website and no webapp and the fact that they already have their design set I have a strong feeling that the deadline in 2.5 weeks is too tight.

How can I smoothly convince my boss that his estimates are a bit too ambitious?

Especially because currently I am working "in advance", meaning that I have not signed a contract, yet. Also I feel that even 4 weeks à 15 hours, so 60 hours are not enough for me adapting to a whole new language, whole framework and doing full stack development plus some extras regarding security and scalability.

Additional info: The company does not have another frontend developer, I am on my own for the whole part. I get along really well with the design team and the boss, so I have the feeling that I can speak honestly about my doubts.

  • If you're just creating a site in wordpress you don't really need to know PHP for that, especially if you're also using a template. I've created several websites in Wordpress and I feel like it's 'cheating' as I never even look at code to do it. – leigero May 18 '17 at 17:44

You have to be honest and put it out there. If they have issues with "reality" you can only help stress what is realistic with your abilities. Sure we all want to grow and be faster and better, but you can't work magic.

Sit down and talk realistically expressing that you are trying to meet the deadline and due to the specifics of x you will require until y to complete it:

  • New technology product learning curve (Word press, etc...)
  • New site content structure (Reverse engineering current content to make the new site align)
  • New programming language learning curve (php, etc...)

Adjust your estimations and list exactly why you feel it will take as long as it does for each part. The more details the better as it shows you have thoroughly thought it through and planned. In general new developers struggle severely with accurate estimations, so the fact that you are unsure is a good sign of acknowledging you don't know, which is normal. My factor was always how long it takes and multiply times 2 to account for issues while working, which usually worked for me, but almost every developer I talk to has a slightly different algorithm as everyone's "estimation" and "work time" varies. It takes time and experience to develop that.

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