Terrified of Being Laughed Out of the Room
So, a bit of background is in order, I do believe. I began coding web pages at the age of 14 (which was 15 years ago) as a hobby, and it grew into a passion for me. For a while I've been making money setting up websites for small and medium businesses. It got the point where it was pretty much old hat-- buy and register the domain, get hosting, gather requirements, code, deliver, warranty and update. Most small business websites are pretty easy, but I've done other, more in-depth setup for some mid-sized businesses as well.
Well, a couple of months ago I got a job as Web Dev for a large corporate entity. I've been put in charge of implementing a fairly simple PHP form that I actually already have written. All that I'm doing is collecting some information and sending it to a SQL table.
So here's the problem: while I'm a decent front-end developer, I know diddly squat about the back end. Server setup and management simply isn't my skill set. It took me more than a month to get my IT team to give me access to a server, and I've spent last three days wrestling with IIS trying to even get a site setup for me. I finally managed to get a virtual folder setup that I can access through my company intranet. So great, I got that down.
PHP does not appear to be setup on the server, however. A test page call to phpinfo gives a 404 error when I attempt to access the test page in IE. What's more, I'm told that I'm supposed to use Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio to complete the SQL server side of my project-- this is completely foreign to me.
So yeah, I'm in over my head-- which I feel like I really shouldn't be. I *know* how to do this, for cryin' out loud-- I have the page already written and ready to go. I just have no idea how to setup my virtual site in order to implement what I'm trying to do. I'm petrified of breaking anything on the server, too, so although I've found several pretty straight forward guides to setting up PHP, I don't want to bring down our network (which would have a financial impact in the hundreds of thousands of dollars even in a couple of hours).
So my question is-- will I be laughed out of the room if I ask for help at this point? The last thing I want to be is the idiot noob who got in over his head, but having never worked on a team of this size or in this environment I have no idea if my lack of experience is expected and will be tolerated.
So, my fellow coders... what would you do?
How did you get the job in the first place if you don’t know what to do? Or, let me rephrase my question: Which is the position you got hired for? What does your work profile include? If you were hired to design and code websites (HTML/CSS) then it’s not a shame to not be proficient in back-end programming and server management. And also, it’s never a shame to ask for help. That you don’t know one thing doesn’t mean that you don’t know everything.
Now, here’s the thing: IIS is the server software by Microsoft, a rival to the Apache server, so to speak, and in corporate environments Microsoft with all their application frameworks is still very widely used where in personal and small scale businesses open source solutions like PHP are more frequent. So, I think you should rather familiarize yourself with the software your company is using rather than trying to install PHP on IIS just for your web developer needs. It’s not a shame to tell them that you used to work with Apache, PHP, and MySQL, and not with their software, so you’ll need help in order to get started. After all, you appear to be relatively new in the company, too, so that’s another good “excuse” to ask for help.
So my position is rather unique, actually-- I'm actually part of the Career Development Program within my company. I've worked for my employer for about 4 years, but in a non-technical capacity (I started at our call center taking calls, then progressed into training and eventually into managing our internal websites).
I was hired into the job as part of the program, which entails 3-month rotations in different departments within the company (legal, audit, marketing, and IT) on the strength of a presentation I made about re-vamping our current internal communications architecture, which was designed and built with very old software and standards (10+ years). The plan was to put me in the Career Development Program, let me design a proof-of-concept replacement site, and if it was satisfactory to their requirements to hire me on full-time as a Web Developer for the company.
So here's the thing-- they knew what my skills and strengths were going in, and yet are asking me to go beyond them. This request stems from the need to have a dev environment on a test server where I can build my project. They give me the keys to the system, and essentially said to me, "Ok, now build it from the ground up." The really frustrating part is that I was asked to do work on a server even though my manager knew what my skills and strengths were. I'm all for professional development, but this just seems to be really far outside of what someone with my skills would normally be asked to do. Am I crazy for thinking that?
I think it's not infrequent that the remit of things turn out to be broader than you expected.
I'd welcome the opportunity to learn - if they're asking you to do this then in a way they're expressing confidence in your abilities.
And, in the situation you describe, all the more reason to ask for some help without feeling in any way embarrassed. Nobody knows everything, whatever they might like to think... Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. I've been working in IT for, oooh, 18 years now, still an awful lot of things I don't know.
Assuming that there is someone in the company that's responsible for server builds etc, find them, and ask for a bit of their time.
Thanks, SB, I think that's a very healthy way of looking at it. I will take this as an opportunity to learn, and do my best with it.
I've hunted down the person responsible for IT, and actually got some training. It ended up being a case of "you're so good at what you do, we assumed had the knowledge to be successful."
Thanks everyone for their feedback-- I really appreciate it.
Best of luck Wookie!
Let us know how you get on.
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