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Why - and How - Developers Should Ask Questions in the Workplace
Software Engineer
November 12 2019

Asking questions is a virtue, or at least it should be. When I was a young preteen, I asked one of the smartest older boys that I knew what made him so intelligent. He answered that he always asked questions. Regardless of whether his question seemed “dumb” if he wanted the answer, he asked the question.


As developers, getting stuck on hard problems on a daily basis is part of our job description. While that moment of “unsticking” a particularly puzzling issue can feel fantastic, it’s a slow process that can use up a lot of precious time. 

The fastest way to get help is to, well, ask for it. Others have been in your position before and found a solution, so you can skip a lot of struggling by asking how the problem that you are currently facing has been solved before. All you have to do then is to translate that solution to fit your experience. You can talk online via Stack Overflow, use your company’s preferred communication line (i.e Slack), or even set up a one to one. Ask if they have time to walk through the problem with you or how they would solve the problem.

If you ask someone for help only to find out they don’t know the answer, try solving the problem together or find another person who might be able to provide more answers. As you go through the process of finding someone to help, you are learning who knows what in your organization. This will make finding help a lot faster in the future.

Let’s address a common concern when it comes to asking a question: the fear of looking dumb. You’ve probably heard the phrase “there is no such thing as a stupid question” before, and that’s right. Don’t feel ashamed for not knowing something or asking for help, because asking questions shows that you are committed to improving. If you don’t know something and it comes up often, ask. Inquire about everything from common acronyms used by your colleagues to why your organization uses specific tools. No one will think that you’re unintelligent, but they might wonder why you didn’t ask sooner. 

You should only be concerned if you find yourself asking the same question repeatedly. When that is the case, take a step back to figure out what information you need to complete a task or fully understand an issue.

Then start asking questions again and dive right back in.

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