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Sticky Situation in my New job that I like


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Old 16th March 2012, 9:09 PM   #1
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Sticky Situation in my New job that I like

Hi

I started a new job last year in the Summer after leaving a job I hated. I am a techie guy working on information system design and basically I have got low experience right now but this job was all I was looking for and junior level. The team of people I work with couldn't be a better bunch.

I started working on my first project and well to be honest it looked quite a daunting prospect, the data structures and business logic is quite complex and the stakeholders and business requesters can be a bit demanding - I was told. During the first few weeks of the project I could not get my head round all the new technologies and business rules etc. very quickly and the documents and coordination between the team of requesters was a total mess if I am to be honest. I know an experienced guy could decipher it as they know the data and the business but I did not.

I therefore asked if I could get some assistance on the requirements and a bit of support for the design and ended up with an experienced systems guy from another country who to be honest was as vague as could be. I think he assumed I could mind read mind and also had a working crystal ball.

After getting through some of the system design but clearly not fast enough for the time frames I got another experienced guy on board to provide a bit more help. This time it seemed to work better and I was designing one part of the system while he done the other. We spent a lot of time doing design work together but to be honest he designed the more complex bit with all the data rules and I designed the front-end shall we call it.

A few months later we seemed to be making good progress and then unexpectedly this guy got pulled from the project, right at one of the most critical roll out phases and I was left with the continuation and testing of the part I was working on and all the testing and bug fixing of the part he had done. It was not long again till I was struggling to not only debug the huge system he had designed but map all the design, and identify issues and points of failure, including dependencies where if I fixed one bit how would it affect other bits etc.

It was not long till the managers and stakeholders were breathing down my neck for answers/time-frames that I could not supply because basically I had not designed most of the system nor new how the last guy mapped the requirements into the design, therefore could not bug fix successfully nor continue to develop and work that round the fixes either. Most bugs were in the back-end that I never designed

To be fair my manager stuck up for me and said the design requirements were not very clear - especially to a newbie - and the coordination and planning were a complete train wreck. But despite this my boss said he got really negative feedback from all the business people involved about my performance and attitude so far, basically I was so pissed off about being put on a project I knew I could not handle from the outset, then to add insult to injury everything seemed to be my fault.

Now I feel my reputation has been tarnished and my confidence tonight is rock bottom, I really do believe in myself and my abilities before but this has just ripped the knitting out of me, and since this is a job I otherwise really like I just hope that this is not the first coffin nail in me getting the bag.

I am not looking for sympathy or a pat on the head I have learned a lot and reckon if I restarted this on my own I could probably get it done but the situation now is I am left holding the baby so as to speak and am worried how I should proceed and try and instil confidence back in both my boss and the business? My boss also said not to be too concerned but am quite worried about the first impressions. I have unwillingly made.

Thanks

2011

Last edited by 2011; 16th March 2012 at 9:13 PM..
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Old 16th March 2012, 9:32 PM   #2
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Hey, I know you said that you're not looking for a head-pat, but I just have to say that I feel your pain. Working with technology can be so difficult because of the humans involved. I ended up having to leave somewhat lucrative opportunities behind because it's too stressful to collaborate with people who don't communicate well.

Even if you were to handle the entire project yourself (which has its advantages, as you can imagine) it's still really difficult to predict the course of development, especially if you're in the position of explaining anything to people with non-technical mindsets.

Quote:
But despite this my boss said he got really negative feedback from all the business people involved about my performance and attitude so far,
It's great that your boss defended you; however, you have to take this feedback really seriously. Even if the performance is sometimes beyond your control, your attitude should not be.

It was really appropriate for your boss to give you this feedback, and it sounds like you really have made a mistake. A much larger mistake would be to not own up to it, even if deep down you don't feel like you're in the wrong.

Your boss took a risk by defending you, don't let him down. Be open to feedback about improving your attitude. It may be worthwhile to take a personality test and read some popular info about the professional strengths/weaknesses of that type. If you take a MBTI-inspired test online for free, I can post a quick summary of what I know about that type.

For example, I have a tendency to take criticism personally, but my boss is the type who doesn't sugarcoat things with this in mind. My choices are to find a different job, be miserable, or check my attitude. I'm really glad that I chose the third one, because the first two seemed a lot more attractive to me whenever I was upset.
Quote:
basically I was so pissed off about being put on a project I knew I could not handle from the outset, then to add insult to injury everything seemed to be my fault.
It's clear that you didn't do a good job of behaving in a way that expressed your frustrations professionally. Otherwise, no one would have given that feedback to your boss.

Also, it may just feel like everything's being blamed on you because it sucks when people don't understand your motives and reasoning. But it's clear from your post that others shared some blame.

It sounds like you're in over your head. You should let your boss know as soon as you realize that, otherwise it's normal for him to expect you to deliver. The way you describe your working relationship with the guy who got suddenly pulled, it sounds like he was doing the bulk of the heavy lifting. I realize that I don't understand your project, so I'm just basing that conclusion on the fact that you handled the front-end while he did the backend, and also because it was a monumental task to debug his code.

People who share tech projects should be in constant communication about the form and function of what they're creating, precisely because it can be so devastating to a project if someone suddenly leaves.

Ideally, there should be enough documentation and in-line commentary on a piece of software that anyone can pick up where anyone else left off.

Quote:
I am left holding the baby so as to speak and am worried how I should proceed and try and instil confidence back in both my boss and the business?
Let the boss know that you're disappointed about the way things worked out, and you want to make sure that it doesn't happen in the future. Apologize profusely for the perception that you had a bad attitude (it reflects poorly on the business) and promise to never let it happen again.

Be pro-active next time you're in over your head and let your boss know right away where the difficulty is. Also, try to keep your emotions out of it.

It's one thing to be frustrated and solution-oriented, but that usually doesn't come across to others as having a bad attitude. It's usually the people who blame, criticize, or throw up their hands in defeat that cause organizational problems.

As for first impressions, you can't change those. But you can make a really good second impression by taking his feedback well and planning to behave differently in the future.
CC12 likes this.

Last edited by Diamonds&Rust; 16th March 2012 at 9:49 PM.. Reason: orphaned paragraph
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Old 16th March 2012, 10:00 PM   #3
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Hi

Thanks for the informative reply.

Quote:
It sounds like you're in over your head. You should let your boss know as soon as you realize that, otherwise it's normal for him to expect you to deliver. The way you describe your working relationship with the guy who got suddenly pulled, it sounds like he was doing the bulk of the heavy lifting. I realize that I don't understand your project, so I'm just basing that conclusion on the fact that you handled the front-end while he did the backend, and also because it was a monumental task to debug his code.
I did do this right at the start and it was arranged for some help for me. Basically I did not have the experience in the business side of things and therefore struggled to decode what they were wanting, i mean I could do it but it was taking me too long initially so as they had to get it going they got an experienced guy to get the ball rolling then - I suspect - they pulled him off with the understanding that I could then run with it.

Quote:
It's clear that you didn't do a good job of behaving in a way that expressed your frustrations professionally. Otherwise, no one would have given that feedback to your boss.
How could I have done this without sounding like a complainer or finger pointer? When in discussions I felt really strongly that a lot of the spec wasn't clear to me but all it felt like I was complaining about it not working a way out to solve the misunderstandings.

Quote:
Let the boss know that you're disappointed about the way things worked out, and you want to make sure that it doesn't happen in the future. Apologize profusely for the perception that you had a bad attitude (it reflects poorly on the business) and promise to never let it happen again.
I did not apologise about the feedback so will do that this week when I go back.

Again thanks

2011
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Old 16th March 2012, 11:42 PM   #4
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I really feel for you. It's awful to be plunged into something very complex at first and also with a lack of communication and co-ordination from the beginning. I'm not a techie, but in my experience of work in general, managers often pass on jobs that seem straightforward on the surface but then the poor 'minions' find out that they are not that simple and weren't done properly before. I've occasionally ended up in this trap.

As I say, I'm not a techie or an expert on how to deal with this. I know this is about 'managing expectations' though, so if you look that up online you may find tips from others with more knowledge of this as to how to do it better and in a positive way that doesn't put people's backs up. If your manager fed back to you that your attitude was a problem, then you can learn from that. Struggling with a job is one thing but blaming others or getting short with them because you are under stress rarely comes across well. If people don't understand what you are dealing with they won't understand why you are reacting like that. In a sense, there are two different issues - managing expectations and maintaining good customer relations. Searches for these might help. I think you've been put in a difficult situation so it's not surprising you might need to learn some new tactics for dealing with it.

Good luck!
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Old 17th March 2012, 5:00 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2011 View Post
Hi
I did do this right at the start and it was arranged for some help for me.
It's good that you did that. I didn't mean that you handled it all wrong, just that you could communicate better next time.
Quote:
Basically I did not have the experience in the business side of things and therefore struggled to decode what they were wanting, i mean I could do it but it was taking me too long initially so as they had to get it going they got an experienced guy to get the ball rolling then - I suspect - they pulled him off with the understanding that I could then run with it.
Yeah, that sucks. It sounds like you may be the type of person who sometimes takes on more than they can handle, with the belief that the increase in pressure will also give your performance a boost.

It sometimes really does work that way, but it's also a good idea to have safeguards in place in case it doesn't. One good way to do that is to try your best to get over fear about communicating obstacles to your boss.

In the future, when struggling to get specific details about a project, you could sketch out in the best non-technical terms what you see the possible meanings of their ideas are--again, I realize this is maddeningly difficult. If they don't follow, get more and more basic until you guide them step by step with how a techie would approach this solution. Consider your primary goal not the computer stuff but the actual communication part, as though you're actually a translator in some foreign place.

Additionally, when you and your team divided the labor in such a risky way--one that made someone's contributions indispensable--you should have communicated the importance of the back-end coder's contributions to the project's success. It may even be a good idea to treat all future assistance as though they may be fired tomorrow, and even at the expense of their productivity require them to redundantly document and comment their work.
Quote:
How could I have done this without sounding like a complainer or finger pointer? When in discussions I felt really strongly that a lot of the spec wasn't clear to me but all it felt like I was complaining about it not working a way out to solve the misunderstandings.
I'm not sure, I wasn't there. I suggest you not even worry about it. I just absolutely know it's possible to communicate professionally in nearly all situations, even when you have strong feelings.

Feedback about your attitude can be devastating to your professional reputation, so be on guard about your need to defend yourself. You will always react better if you give yourself a bit of time to chill, so practice some canned phrases to ask for a moment to process feedback or reflect on a situation.

The best way to respond to this is to take it seriously enough that your boss is aware that you understand its importance. The huge red flags are the people who act as though everyone else is in the wrong. There probably is a bit of truth to their perception that you were difficult to work with and negative, and so if you act negatively about this feedback or don't appear to take it seriously, you confirm the entire narrative. If you treat this as a learning experience, your boss will be impressed.

Last edited by Diamonds&Rust; 17th March 2012 at 5:03 AM..
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