Any suggestions for what to do if you’re assigned to a project and can’t keep up with the work? I’m a new SWE (transitioned from a career as a paralegal) and need a LOT of help- starting to feel under qualified. What to do?

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I suggest you be proactive. For example:
-dissect the project and break it up into pieces/phases/etc.
-find what you can do, what you need help with, and what you can’t do
-have a meeting with your manager to let them know what you found
-put together a group of people who can help you complete the project
-be organized and project manage to ensure it is done at the desired timeline


I agree with learning solutions designer one but I would add the following

-ask your colleagues whether this is a common problem with your manager and what they would do
-self reflect and ask if you’ve gotten any substantive issues that might be blocking you
-make a work plan but start with the understanding that you need to be better versed on the priorities for the project, that is, your work plan might be the chunks that you can do and the best order you think they should be done in, but make sure you get your managers input for prioritization sorry for any typos this was dictated


What is the seniority of the role?

If it's junior and they didn't expect you to have much experience, then don't worry about needing help. As long as you make sufficient effort in searching and finding solutions yourself, not always asking about things that can easily be googled all the time, then they will be happy to mentor you. If they don't, you will have to learn it hard way. You should then consider if a tough love path like this suits your learning, or if it will only stress you, and consider if you should find other places that have better attitude or more resources to support your development.

If they do expect experience, then you can try being a bit more strategic. Start by getting familiar with the tech stack they use. No matter how complicated a project is, it's always composed of a known list of language, software, framework, etc. Then you can set aside time out of work reading a bit about them, starting from technology that you will work most with. Maybe try writing some small program. There is always a "getting started" section with the simplest example. For tech that you won't work directly with, you should still look it up. It's okay if you have only the faintest idea what it does. (Even after some years I still often take some time to finally get what a project is doing.) It will help following conversation in meetings.
Now with the task, break it down as everyone suggests. If you don't have any overall idea of what the task is even about, then I would suggest you ask others directly for help: that you're not sure where to start and ask for advice to what you should take a look at first (in terms of what you should google and learn more about). This way, you're not asking for their time because all they have to do is taking a minute to tell you what to learn. Usually the the understanding of the core task will help decode the rest.
If you still struggle after trying, do ask for help. If you really struggle, chat with your boss (and maybe colleagues, depending on your relationship with them) about it. Either they will tell you that you're doing well or/and give some advice on what you can do to improve. If they are not helpful at all, do the above (consider if you wanna be here). If you really really struggle after looooots of helps, and they expected you to have a lot more experience than you do, consider if you should find a position that matches your seniority. You can even ask your manager about the consideration. It could be that there are other positions within the company you can transfer to. If they say you're actually doing better than you think, then chill, try not to be too hard on yourself.


Ask for help…be honest


You set goals and metrics. Then you assess whether you have time. You tell your manager about your time crunch. If they ask you to work outside of work, you either mention overtime or you mention that your work day ends today and you need time to refresh so you can think of new concepts when you return but you are available during the next work day.

You also can say this “hello, I have a lot on my plate at the moment but like you I want to see this project reach it’s maximum potential, what are the are the 5 aspects on this project that you’d like me to prioritize right now to see this project finished?”


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