Sunday, December 10, 2023

Why I'm a [statistically] bad but also valuable developer

On one of the teams I've recently been working with, we have a channel in Teams for asking questions if you get stuck.

Officially, the guidance is that you shouldn't stay stuck for more than 15 minutes without asking for help.

The intention is that no one should be stuck for long without making progress.

I noticed that I was posting there more than most.

A quick review of the posts there in the last two months, and yes, I post there, asking for help, more than 15 times as often as other team members.

Some people manage to go months without asking for (or needing?) help!

I actually post on that channel more than I might. In starting to write about what I've already tried, I often come up with other ideas to try, and they sometimes pay off. (Maybe it would be more appropriate to rename it the "rubber duck" channel.)

15 minutes isn't very long to get stuck on something. Some of the things I've been working on recently are highly complex and can take hours to try the likely possible solutions I can think of.

But, as soon as I get stuck I ask for help.

There's no point asking for help when I haven't tried the things that are likely to be suggested. But once they're exhausted (and documented if I need to share them with someone who might be able to help) I ask for assistance.

When working as part of a distributed team, asking for help, even asynchronously, as soon as it's needed, is an important and valuable skill.

You don't want to be that person who waits to be asked if they're stuck or struggle for days without making progress. Such people are rarely good for a team.

We'd all love to never need help, but we can't all know everything. 
If you're doing new things (which may be most of the time) then you're bound to encounter things you don't know and need assistance with.

Asking for help isn't (or shouldn't be) a problem. It's the people who don't ask for help that you need to watch more closely. They may be brilliant. They may be struggling.

Yes, my initial statistic doesn't allow for anyone asking other people for help directly. I can't measure that. But I do know that in large, distributed teams, it's hard (impossible?) to know who is the expert on every topic and who will be able to provide the quickest response due to time zones and flexible working patterns.


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