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I've just started a new job and they want me to work with technology I see as no benefit to my career, what do I do?

sloan profile image Sloan Updated on ・2 min read

This is an anonymous post sent in by a member who does not want their name disclosed. Please be thoughtful with your responses, as these are usually tough posts to write.

My new company that has 'taken a chance' on me (which I am/was super excited about) is in the early stages of a new project with a client to provide a CMS solution for several static sites.

I was asked to evaluate some options one of which they seemed quite keen on before even talking to me, this particular option is marketed as a completely front-end agnostic solution. I set about installing it and getting the demo site up and running it was a Java solution that uses tomcat and the baked in language was some form of xml templating language. The "studio" where you have to define your content was clunky and unintuitive.

I quickly moved onto testing out something I was a bit more familiar with a CMS that provided a GraphQL API to pull your content from and a static site generator to template out the pages, I was quite proud of what I had managed to put together in the short time I had to use it and could see it being really useful for the project, a project that used a familiar framework that other developers would want to use.

So they decided to go with the other Java clunky ass unintuitive studio solution, I was told that I'd get training to use it and that I should start getting familiar with it as I'd be delivering a PoC towards the end of May.

Not wanting to sound entitled here but I really don't want to waste my time learning and antiquated technology that isn't going to help progress my career.

I'm still on probation here but feel that this isn't what I want to be doing at all.

How far do I go with this before looking for a new job?

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colinmtech profile image
Colin Morgan

I don't want to sound harsh here but if you quit your job every time you have to work with a piece of technology you don't deem worthy, you might be in for a bumpy ride. You could argue that GraphQL is a waste of your time as well, depending on how it shakes out in the industry.

With that said, if you don't like the technology you are working with, the direction the company you work for is taking, or just aren't happy with your job, those are all perfectly valid reasons to move on.

Just don't expect to always work on "new tech" as the majority of software is written using "old tech" that has been deemed antiquated by a vocal minority. For example, tomorrow I have to wake up and spend another week working on a couple applications built in Angular 1.X. Would I choose to work in a framework I both dislike and has been deemed antiquated? Absolutely not. But I like the job and the people I work with, so I'll do it anyway.

Someone has to keep the "legacy" internet running after Silicon Valley has abandoned it ;)

Good luck with your decision.

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sloan profile image
Sloan Author

Thanks for your reply @colinmtech , I do appreciate it 🙏

It's not harsh, it's very realistic. I spent the second half of my VBA career maintaining legacy code and it's part of any developer job.

This is Greenfield at the moment, so you're going to want to pick what's 'in' now, right?

I want to stay on the JavaScript train at the moment and develop in that area.

I don't want to sound entitled, but guess I am 🙃 the thing is I don't like to waste my time and that's how I'm viewing this is going to turn out, terrible attitude I know but at 41 I don't want to waste any time at all.

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craser profile image
Chris Raser

I’ve been there. It’s helpful to know WHY the other platform was chosen, and it’s reasonable to ask. (But do it diplomatically, obviously.)

When I ask, I usually find surprisingly level-headed answers. Sometimes it’s price. Sometimes it’s because the Java option fits available in-house expertise. Sometimes it’s easy to integrate with their ERP system, and the more “modern” option doesn’t have that plugin yet.

Understanding why you were overruled may help alleviate the feeling that you were ignored, and may even help you feel more motivated.

If you really decide you’re unhappy, it never hurts to look around at what other opportunities are out there.

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evanoman profile image
Evan Oman

I’ve been there. It’s helpful to know WHY the other platform was chosen, and it’s reasonable to ask.

This is my main response to the OP's situation. It sounds like OP's solution uses modern practices but (a) is unproven and (b) still needs to be built out. Both (a) and (b) represent risk for the business whereas the Java solution, as ugly as it may seem to some, (a) has been used before and (b) exists and has support (training even). Businesses can't always afford to take a chance on newish tech, if a tool already exists which meets customer requirements then there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

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sloan profile image
Sloan Author

Thanks @evanoman , these are good points and you can understand why the business would want to go with tried and tested over the other options.

I've spent today familiarising myself with the system using postman to explore the API and not making a great deal of progress.

I have spent the majority of my time learning JavaScript and associated frameworks, I made this abundantly clear in my interview.

So the learning curve involved is steep as I'm not familiar with it at all making barrier to entry quite high.

I'm trying to embrace it and get familiar with it, it's going to be a tough ol' slug. And for what? To be the company expert in the CMS, no thanks.

It appears that the people making the decisions have been wowed by the marketing and I'm the person that has to make it a reality for them.

I was describing what it was I needed to do with the system today to one of the senior devs today and he was laughing his head off at how clunky it all was. He was laughing as he was relieved it wasn't him doing the work 🤷‍♀️

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evanoman profile image
Evan Oman

I absolutely understand where you are coming from. My current task is post-hoc unit testing a legacy C++ system w/ 5k line functions and no docs. Obviously I don't want to be doing that. However I am slogging through because I know there is a lot of potential at my company (assuming I survive my current tasking). Additionally this task, as orthogonal to my interests as it may be, is still providing me with valuable experience in problem solving, test writing, and refactoring. I can't imagine what I am learning now won't be useful someday.

So if you don't see any potential in your position after you survive this first task, and you have other options, then I wouldn't blame you for leaving. However if you believe in this company and can see yourself enjoying future tasking then I would bite the bullet, face the task head-on, and try to learn as much as possible.

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colinmtech profile image
Colin Morgan

I definitely hear you. Nothing is worse than knowing better but not being listened to. Make sure you make your professional opinion known. Not much else you can do except be ready to save the day when the time comes.

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jfrankcarr profile image
Frank Carr

Walking away from a job where you've only been there for a very short time isn't a good thing to do in most situations. The only reason to leave a job early like this would be if you encountered a very toxic work environment where unethical, or even illegal, things were going on or if there was a level of bullying or harassment that was causing you health issues.

The question to ask is this technology really antiquated or simply just not the current "flavor of the month"? I assume we aren't talking about using something really outdated like Flash or Coldfusion to do this work.

Were they not upfront about what was going to be used in your projects during the interview process (did you ask?).

It also wasn't clear if this was a contract, contract-to-hire or a perm position. In that case, it's a little different. Contracts aren't usually meant to be a long term placement. I've left a couple of contracts after a very short time because it was clear to me and the client I wasn't a good fit. Contract-to-perm is usually an extended trial period where either party can exit. Perm jobs have a higher expectation, that both you and the company are committed to a longer term relationship.

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sloan profile image
Sloan Author

It's not the flavour of the month @jfrankcarr and thanks for chiming in here.

I'm trying to get as much feedback as possible here so I can bring this up to my employer.

I'm on a three month probationary period before going full time.

I think the thing which is a bit frustrating is that I was asked for my input but it seems to have been disregarded or not considered in the first place.

The CTO was asking another front-end developer what his opinion was on the stack which I thought was a bit odd as I was one desk away and I'm going to be the guy working on the project 🤷‍♂️

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rhymes profile image
rhymes

My opinion is that you already made the decision and I don't see quitting this job as a big issue CV-wise (you can even avoid to put it in the CV being 3 months of your life). You have to start looking for a job once again though.

I have a question though: why are you finding it out now? The issue doesn't seem to be just technological (it can happen as Colin said that you're going to work on tech you don't like) but of communication. It seems you were hired on different assumptions. Am I wrong?

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sloan profile image
Sloan Author

Hi @rhymes , as I understood it I was brought in to do the new work, which would be in cutting-edge technology.

I'm guessing enterprise cutting edge is around MS Office 2010 🙃

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rhymes profile image
rhymes

You didn't discuss any of that? For example: what technologies, which projects are they working on, and so on.

Pardon me but from what you wrote it seems like you signed a little bit without enough information...

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sloan profile image
Sloan Author

It appears so 🙃

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scotthannen profile image
Scott Hannen

What you want is to both learn valuable, interesting skills and have a job that both utilizes them and leads to more of the same.

The first sentence - they 'took a chance on you' suggests that you don't yet have the technical resume you want to help you get a different job.

Based on that, it sounds like the path to getting the job you want is just to do the one you have for now. My suggestion is to commit to your current job with the intent of sticking it out for a year unless something perfect falls in your lap. In other words, you're not really committing to this job long-term, but you don't want to be affected by an "I don't care" attitude while you're there.

Some places accept new developers but aren't actually a good place for new developers. I'd talk to the manager and express goals but not concerns. The response to that will tell you what you need to know. If they see your enthusiasm and ability to learn but don't seem decisive about helping you toward those goals, or promise but don't deliver, then it's likely not a good long-term job. You can waste years waiting for change that never comes. It's a cultural problem that will survive multiple management turnovers.

Learn as much as you can on your own time during that year. When you start applying for new jobs

  • You'll have something technical-sounding on your resume, even though it's not the kind of experience you want yet.
  • They'll see that you stuck it out for a year. That's reasonable.
  • When you describe your previous work and goals to an interviewer, don't be negative about your current work. A smart interviewer will read between the lines because your concern is a common one.
  • Look at the picture you're painting. I didn't like this, but I stuck with it. I'm capable of performing my current tasks (because I'm still employed there.) I took the initiative to learn more on my own. I'm so enthusiastic about applying what I've learned and learning more that I want a job that helps me to do that.

It sounds to me like you could leverage your current situation to move you toward where you want to be.

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sloan profile image
Sloan Author

Wow, thanks @scotthannen 🙏

I really appreciate the reply and do agree with you on all the points really, that's the sanest/logical thing to do.

but

I can feel any motivation I've got for this role evaporating fast I haven't wanted to get up in the morning and code (I have been getting up at 05:00 for the last 18 months to code before going to work) I haven't wanted to hack on anything on the weekends.

So, stay and be the passionless developer resigned to working on antiquated/proprietary tech for the rest of my career.

Or, get out before that happens and try gloss over the last couple of months.

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scotthannen profile image
Scott Hannen

Sticking around for a year or so might help you get your next job. But if you can get the next job without doing that, go for it. It's not like you're doing it every three months. My answer was just focused on the long-term solution to being where you want to be down the road. There's nothing wrong with a shortcut if you find one.

I feel for you. Writing software takes some mental energy which is hard to give if you're not enjoying it. When a company puts a developer in that situation I can see their point of view, but it reflects a lack of understanding which is very common and hard to change. It's like raising pigs in tiny cages, not because you're cruel, but because you don't know that pigs in tiny cages aren't happy, and that they can do amazing things if they're not in tiny cages.

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sloan profile image
Sloan Author

Wow! What is life?

We're all just pigs in little cages 🙃

Yeah, I know where you're coming from Scott, thanks again 🙏

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mohr023 profile image
Matheus Mohr

I don't usually see "job hopping" as an issue, since a person wouldn't be "hopping" for no actual reason in the first place.

In terms of old tech I've been where you're at now, in my case I was promised a position at data analysis in the company I was (considering I have an MBA in data science and wanted to start acquiring experience) and after about 8 months nothing happened, just more and more legacy maintenance, which in this case means Java 7 + Struts 1.3.

In my case I regret absolutely nothing, since I joined a company that actually put me to work in a data project right away (my first few tasks still involves development, since we need to collect the data before analysing).

In the end, it might be worth taking in consideration how many companies in your region actually have jobs for positions/technologies you want before any kind of decision. If there are actual companies willing to take on juniors for the stack you want, I'd say go. Otherwise, consider using your time in your current company to study, build up some portfolio and then try again.

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fnh profile image
Fabian

How far do I go with this before looking for a new job?

Just a few things to contemplate:

How is the job market for developers with a profile similar to yours in your city (or the wider area you are willing to look for work)? Is it so depleted for talent that finding a better offer would be easy?

Even if it were so, for salaried employees it can be much more damaging to a career in the long run, if the cv screams "job hopper", than having done a project with some technology which is maybe a bit more dated than the stack that would earn you the most nerd credit at this particular moment. So the cultural norms in your area taken into account, will quitting make you look bad?

Also, is this project the only thing you have been hired for? Is there a chance that you might be assigned to another project in a reasonable time frame?

And will you do something in the search for your next job, to prevent getting into a situation like this again? E.g. no consultancies or agencies, but a company with a product to make the choice of tech more predictable?

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sloan profile image
Sloan Author

Thanks for the reply @fnh ,

I have struggled to get this role to be fair, this is why I'm conflicted when I write the post to begin with. So finding another role won't be easy, although going by the number of calls/LinkedIn requests and emails I get and from hearing the HR department they are in need of skilled developers. I want to be a skilled developer, I can guarantee that I will not be getting another job with the skills gained from this 'preferred' CMS

Well, there's job hopper and there's the person that decided after the probationary period that the role wasn't really for them. If I'm asked why I was only there three months I could probably point to this post as an explanation, maybe?

No, this project is not the ony project, AFAIKT they have a lot of work coming up which they are under-resourced for, they have actually asked us to re-post the jobs advertised on LinkedIn and start going to Meetup's to build a network for possible new hires. If I do this project then I will be the SME for the company on this CMS, I guess maybe after doing one project that they will have enough confidence in me to listen to me the next time they are considering CMS options, I'm not comfortable with the amount of time I will spend wasted doing this project. I say wasted because it doesn't benefit me at all, I want to be learning something transferable. If I want to be a passionless 9-5 developer I'll go back to being a VBA developer in the financial sector.

With regard to finding the right company to work for, I have always found that what you hear in the interview and read online are very different to the actual day to day of the job. I always ask who I'll be working with, can I meet them if they're not in the meeting already.

I have worked for both consultancies and large firms both have the pros and cons, what I'm looking for is a place that will focus on the junior talent with the view to them being the next custodians of the work being done.

Many times I'm contacted with how big the company is (they're always a market leader in their field) and how much they are growing and how much salary they want to give you, these things do not concern me.

What technologies will I be working with?
What are the company values?
What's the work-life balance?
What emphasis is on training?
What is the team like?

I have worked in many sectors for many companies: Finance [Risk, Asset Management], Property, Oil & Gas and Lloyd's insurance market.

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kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman

This is a tough one, and I sympathize with you. I also would be tempted to look elsewhere.

You obviously had different expectations about the job going in. So I would use that as the basis for discussion with your manager. In some cases, they might be willing to move you to another project since the hiring process is expensive. However, based on the info you provided (this being a project for a client of your employer) it seems unlikely to me that they will move you to something different. Because they would just have to hire someone else for the work anyway. And they wouldn't have bothered to hire someone for it if an existing employee was free and willing to do it. (Or maybe it just came up after you were hired?)

If you discuss this with your manager, the best result you can hope for is a caring manager who says they will look for a different project for you going forward (probably after the PoC is delivered). The other end of the spectrum is that it could affect your probationary review, including the decision to not take you on full time. The idea being that you would not stay, and they would have to hire someone else for the work anyway.

Personally, I would have the talk because it does not sound like a fit. And it sounds like they want to put you in the center of future efforts around this CMS (if any come up). Which could make it a bad fit for some time to come. There's probably a dev out there who would be happy to do the work, and another company out there that would be happy to hire you for work you want to do anyway. Just guage how your manager reacts, and take steps accordingly.

Probably in your next job search, this experience will lead you to double- and triple-check that their expectations line up with yours during the interview process.

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rhymes profile image
rhymes

I agree, apart from the specific technology it seems like he's starting a new job in place where he doesn't fit in, which is a huge red alert. Good fit is the thing that makes you want to work there even with outdated technologies. It seems like they spoke a different "language" than he does.

Scott, a job is a two way contract. I would prefer an employee in probation to tell me right away than to have a disgruntled employee for a year or two.

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eljayadobe profile image
Eljay-Adobe

I've not been in that situation.

Even when I worked with antiquated technology, that in and of itself was not a motivating factor for me to look for another position.

What I did learn, after many years, is to consider my résumé carefully and omit any technology with which I was experienced, yet I did not want to work in anymore.

So MAI BusinessBASIC IV, PickBASIC, Pascal, Lisp, Java, Perl, Prolog, JavaScript, X11, MS-DOS, OS/2 are not mentioned.

You may (rightly so) point out that some of those antiquated technologies are obsolete. (And others on that list are still mainstream.) Yes, I agree... that's why I wouldn't want to get hired to work on them in some legacy environment!

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ferricoxide profile image
Thomas H Jones II

My view on any technology I don't know is that learning it, by nature, isn't a waste of time. While any given implementation may have no further direct use beyond what I'm compelled to use it for, today, learning is a reward unto itself. At the very least, it keeps me in the practice of learning. Ideally, it helps me learn more about the stuff more dear to my heart. It's that whole, "huh: why'd they do that this way," that makes me dig deeper into the new technology, the technologies I'm familiar with and further technologies that take different approaches to solving similar problems.

Use the opportunity to learn something new: you never know when it may come in handy down the road. In the processs, establish yourself as a trusted, knowledgeable team-member. You may then be able to convert that political capital into pushing forward better solutions down the road. ...Or just have one more thing to pad your resume when you move on.

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hatsrumandcode profile image
Chris Mathurin

I guess that the importance of choosing the right company. I totally agree that you want to use what is 'in' if you have the opportunity to work on a greenfield project.

If the company has invested heavily in that "clunky ass unintuitive studio", for them might mean that if you can use it, then use it, whether that's the best tool for the job or not. Another reason is that the training required to learn the 'in' tech does not favour the whole team, for example, if there are a lot of Java devs who might not be too keen as you are with FE tech. Is there a possibility to meet somewhere in the middle (some new and old)? This is something that my team did in order not to loose our will to leave when working on some really old codebase!

If you've tried to explain to them your reasoning and they either did not listen or were not able to give you a good reason why they still want to stick to some legacy tech, then, I am not sure if this is an environment that will be unjoyable or help someone career progression. Whichever you decide, I wish you all the best 👍🏾.