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Do you reckon being put on a rubbish project as a new employee is a rite of passage?

 
Greenhorn
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I'm floating this question, because no kidding, in 4 out of my last 5 jobs, I've been put on a project out of the blocks that was either a total disaster area, didn't live up to the billing, or was not my desired technology.
2 of those I was point blank lied to at the interview, and led to believe I would be working on something else, or certain vital facts were not mentioned.

Software consultancies seem to be the worst for this. One job I turned up to, expecting to be working locally. On day one they told me I'd be going up to Leicester, which was not commutable from home so I had to stay in hotel accommodation for 4 months.
In that particular role I was a million miles away from my experience base of Java web development. Hell, my job title had Java in it so that was certainly not what I signed up for.

My point is that such projects are the ones that existing employees just don't want to work on, because they know that they're a complete shit show. New employees are like lambs to the slaughter. Cannon fodder if you will.

Now my strategy for dealing with this is to ask for another project. Failing that I'll definitely leave.
I just wondered how many people have encountered this phenomenon, and how common is it for a job to be 'not as billed'?
Have I just been unlucky?
 
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I think that more often than not, what I was ostensibly hired to do wasn't what I ended up doing for several years. As for rubbish, some of the most important products I've worked with were pretty rubbish.. Forget the precision teams of software designers and coders. The backbone products of many installations I've worked at were hacked out in a week or so by one or two programmers who just needed something done. It's when the project has grown to its bursting point that the precision teams get called in. And often as not, fail so spectacularly that the original system remains in use (see Fred Brooks' "Second System Effect").

But yeah, you do tend to end up getting the crap that everyone else is tired of when you first come in.
 
Andrew Fielden
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Ok, not just me then
I read a quote recently from some book I was reading. It said there are two types of projects - those that fail, and those that become legacy nightmares.
With the rate of technology change in this industry, things become out of date pretty fast. I think most of us have been on projects that are underpinned by ageing technology. You could view it as job security though - everyone's wanting to move on to the latest cool technology stack of the month. Someone's got to support those old systems.
 
Tim Holloway
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Andrew Fielden wrote:Ok, not just me then
I read a quote recently from some book I was reading. It said there are two types of projects - those that fail, and those that become legacy nightmares.
With the rate of technology change in this industry, things become out of date pretty fast. I think most of us have been on projects that are underpinned by ageing technology. You could view it as job security though - everyone's wanting to move on to the latest cool technology stack of the month. Someone's got to support those old systems.



Aging technology is one thing and I've seen more projects crumble because they weren't kept up to date than because they actually got obsolete (well, except for CORBA and the EJBs that had stored database procedures in them).

A bigger problem has been when a system was designed to do "X", but over time it needed to do "Y" and the existing "X" mechanisms didn't want to co-operate.
 
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Andrew,

I don't know your definition of a "rubbish" project, but every job that i have ever had as a programmer was detailed as 90% what i was hired to do and 10% miscellaneous.  That 10% miscellaneous has been where all the real fun has been.  Project that others have failed in doing for decades, yes multiple 10's of years, and things nobody else dare do, and project that require complete system rewrites, and etc...  I, personally, love it.  I can out out college as a C/C++ programmer and about as much of a C Smith as one can get in college and light programing work over the summers.  I have, in about 30 years now, written 1 C program for production and it was a very small utility to facilitate backups.

That 10% has lead me to become a SQL programmer, SAS programmer, Java Programmer, C# programmer, and web developer using so many different scripting languages and tools that I scarce not even venture to list them.  Did I get these odd ball project as the new guy--absolutely: everyone else knew they were a huge time and resource suck!  But after I figured out that since nobody wants to do them, then I was god of the the project because I willingly took it on, and then had the audacity to complete them on the projected time lines (ones I developed) and in or under budget (which I also developed).  Ever go head to head with an industry acknowledged expert?  I have and they went out the door when they realize my solution was simpler, more maintainable, and did more than the experts have told them could be done in the project times allotted.

Some where along the way, my resume hit that critical mass of "difficult child projects" that everyone started considering me an expert to fix their problems.  What that translated to for me, was much more dollars in my pocket.  Amazingly, and I am not boasting here, I have never had my ask turned down, even though, I usually ask tens of thousands of dollars over the top range they are paying their current senior staff.  This is not consultation fee's, but actually being hired into the company with job title the same as those I am now very senior in pay, actually above the corporate scale, but yet have the same job descriptions.  

So I guess what I'm saying: do the "rubbish" project with grace and style and reap the benefits.  Eventually, word gets around and you become "that guy that knows how to make it happen".

Les
 
Les Morgan
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Andrew,

This, I think, might class as a "rubbish" job.. my first programming job out of college.  I turned in hundreds of lines of C/C++ code to a company and got the job.  They brought me in and set me down and told me: you'll be working on our new system (little did I realize just then that I was going to be the only one fixing their new system because even the original developers didn't want to touch it.  I thought OK, C/C++ code and I had a couple routines to rewrite under the supervision of the original developers.  Not so!  Nobody wanted to touch that pig--thousands of line of excel macro code, running from a LAN based code pool onto local PC and interfaced to an IBM minicomputer.  NOTHING there was anything in my skill set.  One of the other programmers showed me where the bathrooms were and told me: now that you know the important things have fun.

My phone rang off the hook starting when i got to work in the morning and ending when the analysts using the system went home--an hour before I did.  I literally pushed updates out more frequently than on a daily basis to keep things working in "production".  After about 6 months went silent: everything was working!!!  How extensive was my rewrites?  I completely removed one of the original developer's code--it was far too buggy to save!  I rewrote about 10% of the second of the 3 original developer's code, and about 30% of the 3rd's.   All this while implementing the moving targets set out for changes by a steering committee.

I hooked into a consulting job off the merits of that and went on from there... fixing the "problem child" projects for people for years and years and years!  I made it pay though, because along the way I became "that guy that knows how to make it work".

Les

BTW: it was a lot of fun too!!!
 
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