I'm an intern in a small engineering firm. Every engineer in the company is a mechanical engineer (including my boss), whereas my tasks purely entail software development. I'm only working here until my school term is over in about 3 months. My boss owns the company and his wife handles the finances.


I've been working on a project for about 4 months, since I joined this company. This project was assigned to me when I started by my boss and was also a major talking point during the hiring interview. I'm the only one who works on it.

Few days ago I held a project update meeting and provided updates on my progress. My boss and three senior engineers were present in the meeting. The two senior engineers applauded my work multiple times and one of them also said that it's impressive the time-frame I did this within. I explained how we need to purchase one more unit of equipment A. Everyone agreed with my suggestion that we need more of equipment A to proceed with the project.

The project I'm working on has two parts, the second part of the project when accomplished will make the product even more attractive (my boss believes this too and it was part of his plan from the beginning). In a previous project meeting I mentioned to them that this second part is quite challenging and it may take some time. Towards the end of this meeting, I told them that I have figured out some possible ways I can go about the second part of the project. Then I explained how the second part of the project will require equipment B and C. Requiring C was quite obvious to everyone and B involves upgrading my development setup to be compatible with C.

My boss then asked me how long it will take to do the second part, I said it will take about a month. The boss didn't seem happy to hear that, he said

"One month!? We can do a lot in one month. Really, one month!? I don't know about that, how much is equipment A going to be?"

I tell him the cost. Then he says,

"Well, equipment A is going to cost $X and you also need equipment B and C, which will be $Y, so the total is around $Z. I don't know, we'll have to talk to finance (his wife) about this. Email me a wish-list of all the parts you need. Until then maybe you can help other senior engineers with their projects."

Then my boss explains how they want to demo this project (involving finishing the second part of the project).

"We want this to be done before you're gone, do you follow me?"

I was quite taken aback and confused by this point (confused because I didn't understand why we're not ordering A, B, and C while my boss is stating that they want this done quick), so I couldn't state that I too really want to finish it as soon as possible and all I could conjure up was "Yes." With a few more comments like "Good job", the meeting was wrapped up.

From this conversation, this is what I can understand:

  1. He may believe that I'm not putting my best efforts and the project could be done faster.
  2. I'm afraid he'll kill the project (at least until I'm gone) because of his possible misbelief that I don't want to (or I can't) do it on time.


I'm a young engineer and I want to be better at tackling such situations in the future. I need to somehow address the above two points. I need to figure out if the problem for my boss is purely monetary or if he believes that I'm delaying things (either because of incompetence or unwillingness). I also want to convey that I can and want to do it on time (before I'm gone).

So, I'm planning to email him and set up a quick one-on-one meeting where I'll ask him about my performance and if there's anything he wants to suggest to improve my performance. From this meeting, I'll also try to convey to him that I do care about finishing this on time.

Is this a good plan? What other things can I do?

NOTE: This is my second time asking for equipment. The first time (about 2 months ago), my requests were met without any problem.

  • 2
    Look from his viewpoint, it's been 4 months, nothing to show except request for more equipment, then another month.... I'd be wondering why I didn't get the equipment request 4 months ago or ideally right at the start. To the bosses mind there is a definite problem, he's about to outlay some $$ on something he cannot be sure about.
    – Kilisi
    Sep 21, 2017 at 8:03
  • 1
    It may be expedient to just say "yes" to an unreasonable request when put on the spot, but that will hurt you far more than having an uncomfortable discussion that starts with "no". It is clear you're diligent and want to do the right thing. It may even seem slightly heroic agree to an unreasonable timeline and give it your best effort. But from the other side, it will end up looking like a deception if you can't deliver.
    – teego1967
    Sep 21, 2017 at 10:38

2 Answers 2


Hmm, you're a software engineering undergrad, working on a solo project, with no supervision, and you've been doing it for 4 months.

I'll have to post a famous quote here:

"Weeks of programming can save you hours of planning"

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What are your specifications? What are your delivery timeline? What are your core requirements? Optional features? Are you ahead of schedule? Behind? What features can you cut so you can present a demo in 1 month?

Let's say instead of 1 month, you need to demo your existing work in 24 hours. How will you set it up? Shouldn't some parts of your system be working independently of other? Shouldn't you be able to unit test parts of your code? What if you want to add features? What if you have a bug to fix?

Drop the User Interface, how much work is that going to save you? Do you even have command-line options? Skip the automatic database CRUD. Do you have notes on how to do the database updates manually? What is your DB relationships like? What is the expected size needed? Can you test these independently?

The bottom line is this is a good learning experience, but your bosses know less about software development than you. However, they're engineers, so they know about other aspects of engineering, like planning, unit tests, quality control, etc. Ask them to critically take apart your project like something they've worked on, and try to figure out what the mistakes are before the deadline.

  • I would buy that shirt! Sep 21, 2017 at 21:16

Not an engineer. But here is my take:

  • Be objective. You have a timeline (~3 months), estimated cost ($Z), and experience (working on it for 4 months).
  • Be realistic. You know that the scope of the project is way to large to complete within spec, you can give a rough estimate of how much more time and cost it would take.
  • Negotiate. You are graduating in 3 months, unless you have your sights elsewhere and have received an offer, have you considered staying with the company?

Look at this:

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