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I'm a Java developer, still very profitable for my company.

A few weeks back I was requested to participate in a training over a very obscure and proprietary technology. I couldn't find out exactly what this technology was about on the Internet, so I agreed to participate in that training, thinking that one more skill is never bad.

Now the training has started and is still ongoing. I've discovered that this technology is nothing more than a 4th generation language, with a twist: it's for both the web and the mobile worlds. It has nothing to do with Java, which is what I've been hired for, what I'm good at and what I want to do for the next few years. Also, this is the kind of technology that dulls your senses beyond measure.

I can understand that with good marketers my company decided to give this technology a shot because it's really shiny and they pushed the traditional angle for 4th generation language (which is always very appealing until you look under the hood or try to do harder stuff). After all was decided, we're roughly 20 developers (out of thousands) to participate in such training.

Also, my company is trying very hard to have customers for this technology, and they've already succeeded in getting one, to whom all people who passed the certification exam will be sent.

Now this is a very damaging move for me as I want to continue developing in Java:

  • a few years without Java might be hard to sell to future employers
  • my current project is very, very enjoyable, both as a developer and as a member of the team.
  • The next version of Java is just around the corner and has very interesting features I'm eager to iteratively learn.
  • I'm not in the mood for change: lots of things happen in my private life, and I can't bear switching technology right now. I'm okay to learn new stuff, but not go outside of my comfort zone.

I've overheard managers speaking about this and they said that all those succeeding the exam will be sent to that one customer.

Now the real twist here is that my manager is on long-term leave and the replacement guy isn't helping saying basically nothing more than "wait for your manager to return".

So I'm sure you'll tell me to wait for my manager, but my manager returns in a month or so, while the exam is next week.

So what should I do? Succeed and wait for my manager to return, then try hard to convince him to come back on my project, or simply cut the ground from under his feet by failing the exam.

Is it acceptable to purposefully fail this exam for my own interest?

Are there other alternatives?

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    Are you sure you can pass? – Will Jul 20 '17 at 22:13
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    Yes. We had the Q/A session recently and I was the top performer, even without trying. – John Doe Jul 20 '17 at 22:17
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    Was it made clear before you agreed to the training, that you would be transitioning into using [only] this new language? Are you obligated to pay for the training if you don't pass and/or leave your company? – fubar Jul 20 '17 at 22:20
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    If you fail it, while everybody else passes, then this won't look good later on in your appraisal. You will be the guy who can't learn new stuff. – Simon B Jul 20 '17 at 22:48
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    I strongly doubt that not coding in java for a few years would be as damaging to your career as you seem to think. In fact, I think that people who have only done a single thing in a single language for years on end will have worse prospects in a potential new job than people who have shown they have a wider set of skills and are adaptable. – Cronax Jul 21 '17 at 9:11
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Is it acceptable to purposefully fail this exam for my own interest?

No. I expect my staff to do their best at whatever task they've been assigned, whether they like it or not.

Are there other alternatives?

The obvious one here is to go over your (temporary) manager's head. Have a word with your manager's manager and explain the situation. That will pretty much lead to one of two possibilities:

  • You're told to suck it up, learn the new language and go and work with the customer. If so, probably time to start getting your CV up to date.
  • You and your manager's manager come to some sort of agreement - maybe you only work for a short time at the customer until your company can get a replacement in, maybe you don't have to work there at all. If so, all is pretty much good.

If you can, it would be good to let your temporary manager know you're going over their head (in the politest way possible, of course), but that may well not be possible.

For avoidance of doubt, I certainly don't think your company, and in particular your temporary manager, is behaving well here. Significantly changing your job role without discussing it with you is, while something they are allowed to do, not something they really should do other than in exceptional circumstances. Along the same lines, your temporary manager saying "wait for your real manager to return" may as well mean that you don't have a manager at all. Somebody should be taking responsibility for this issue.

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    "I expect my staff to do their best at whatever task they've been assigned, whether they like it or not." This is a great answer. Friends do favors for other friends, employees do work for employers; more relevant, work is paid and there's no guarantee that job requirements won't change. If you don't want to do a favor for me as a friend on a given occasion, that's not a big deal. If you don't want to be paid to do the work I need, then it's time for me to start looking at other options. The work is going to get done with or without you. – jcam3 Jul 21 '17 at 1:04
  • Agree. They pay, you work. If they've switched your job and roped you into something you don't want to do that's unfair. Why not do your own "Marketing" and with your trusted expertise explain why 4GL is out. Calling in sick or being a Time Waster is a good way to get fired with an unfavorable Reference. You could do as they ask, do it well, and ask for a Raise (with fewer hours and same benefits) practice the Programming you want on your own time - no raise, no stay. – Rob Jul 21 '17 at 3:07

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