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I'm working as a developer in a small software company whose main job is interfacing between separate applications, like between a telephony system and an environment control system, between IP TVs and hospitality systems, etc...And it seems like I am the candidate for a new job title in the company, as the person who does the proof of concept of a new interfacing project and does some R&D for prototyping.

What do you think the pros and cons of such a job would be, considering mainly the individual progress/regress of a person as a software engineer? And what aspects would you consider essential in a person to put him/her in such a job position?

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Are you hiring? If so, I'd be better at it than @Toby ;-) –  AJ Johnson Nov 5 '10 at 16:10
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5 Answers

Personally I would worry about hiring someone who spent their time doing proof of concept stuff because it sounds like they are trained to get stuff working in a very beta/high level way but maybe couldn't deal with the real fiddly bits of actual implementation.

That being said if the work was there it would be a wicked awesome job.

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yeah, I'm also afraid of the possible disadvantage this would bring at my future job searches. –  davsan Nov 3 '10 at 20:32
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+1 for "it would be a wicked awesome job". –  John Fisher Nov 3 '10 at 20:37
    
Haha, cheers John :-) –  Toby Nov 3 '10 at 20:44
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Since I've worked with someone who has done this and seen the impacts on the quality of the work of his that gets passed around I'd worry more about the perceptions of those who inherit my work. Things that are prototyped often do not need to worry about corner cases or are done in a manner which is more concerned with schedule at all costs than maintainability.

You'd have to guard against three things:

  1. A gradual degradation of your own default code quality.
  2. The "if-I-can-say-it-it-can-be-done" work which might get thrown at you. The schedule could be awfully filled with hope. They'd be looking at you going "it doesn't have to be perfect, just get it done" when in fact, just getting it to a prototype level requires a LOT of work.
  3. The converse, "I-can-do-it-for-just-this-case-but-it-can't-be-generalized." This one is more subtle as people often don't think past very specific pieces of code or datasets. I've been handed way too many things which can't scale and the prototype never even needed to address the issue.
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I think the most important question, is how important is this position to your company's core business? If this work is a fundamental part of taking on new business then that is pretty attractive. If the value connection is a little vague then I'd steer clear of it myself.

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yeah it's about taking new business, and currently this proof of concept thing is done mostly with trial&error kind of effort and with a rough approach. I think the company is in need to take this more seriously and dedicate just one person to this job to give it what it takes to understand the real capabilities/limits of the system and get a real grasp of the proper methods to achieve the goals instead of going with trial&error. –  davsan Nov 3 '10 at 20:55
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First I would ask myself this question: Does this company put out enough new products that there will be a steady stream of projects that require a proof of concept? If the answer is no then I would be worried about the stability of the position. If the answer is yes the I would suppose that the number one quality required for the job would be a person who is extremely fast at picking up new languages/technologies.

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Seems like this will not consume my full time, because they also want to keep my position as the team leader, so most of my time will be spent on the team leading thing I guess. –  davsan Nov 3 '10 at 20:29
    
@davsan: if that's the case, have you considered that they are just trying to dump more work on you? –  Steve Evers Nov 3 '10 at 20:34
    
@SnOrfus: right now my current job inclues both leading the team and doing my product development job but with less development load then my non-leading days. and my current development job means also dealing with versioning, customers, really tight deadlines and so. And seems like there's no option like I'd just do the leading, so it's either leading + product development or leading + prototyping. And the hope that choosing prototyping will keep me away from customers is what attracts me about this. –  davsan Nov 3 '10 at 20:43
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sounds like fun! you get to work with the new shiny stuff, figure it out, prove that it can work, then go on to the next new shiny thing.

progress/regress is totally up to you. qualifications: no fear, inventiveness, ability to mentor

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