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How to ask questions that doesn't suck..

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Senior Software Engineer at Egnyte2 years ago

Up until now, (before covid basically), I used to go to different people's desk and ask for the the flow that I would have to work on, and be genuinely interested in what they had to say, in short make friends basically and it was good strategy, they were big companies too so there weren't a lot of pressure and people were eager to help me. After covid I have joined remote-first company which is also a late startup too. I have couple of challenges here

  • I don't know many people in the company, and the team is really small, and in addition to that some people whom I have asked for help turned out to be really closed.
  • I ended up asking a lot of question to one person which obviously made me look like I ask a lot of questions, and not a good first impression
  • on top of it, I even was discouraged to ask questions and was told to work independently from the manager.

In my defence, I am new to all these new technologies, and I have not used to the way they have written the code, that said, I have improved much. But still I have to ask questions because everytime I get stories from different modules which I have no idea about, and there's no way I would know without asking questions..

So this is what I was doing in current company which back fired I guess. I was pinging one guy and trying to get his point of view, if that was not enough I used to get on calls and sync up with him for the approach and I have a feeling that although he didn't say directly to me that he didn't like this approach but he might have shared this to our manager.

Now what I am doing is, I do my work and get all the questions which I have in mind, compile them together so that it's easier to read for the other person and send it accross to the other person asking for help. This strategy is new to me but I like it because it makes me less weak I think.. also it makes me articulate as well. But since I was told that I have bugged people.. I have become scared and confused .. thinking if sometime later my manager come back to me saying you ask too many questions on slack and bug people etc.

I am basically doubting my every move. and in addition to that clocking 12+ hours everyday. it's exhausting..



(1 comment)
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    Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    2 years ago

    Sorry to hear about a stressful situation. You're right that post-pandemic work habits have made it much harder to build friendship and have informal conversation, which also makes question-asking significantly harder.

    Check out this video about asking effective technical questions and check out all the content tagged with "Asking Great Questions"

    For your situation, I have a few specific thoughts:

    • Do some reflection. It sounds like the issue is that you ask more questions than the typical engineer. I like that you're writing down the questions you're asking. When you reflect on the questions you asked in a given week, how many of those did you say "Oh, I should have been able to figure that out on my own" Are there patterns here that you can detect/learn from?

    • Rotate questions across people. You said you don't know many people in the company, but I feel you can still introduce yourself and ask questions to a wider variety of people. e.g. "I noticed you touched this file last week (as per git blame). I had a question about making this change X, and I was wondering if you might have an idea on this?" I'd especially focus on peers who hopefully won't be as annoyed to answer questions compared to tech leads or senior folks who probably get bombarded frequently.

Egnyte is a software company headquartered in Mountain View, California. It sells cloud-based content security, compliance, and collaboration tools for businesses. Egnyte was founded in 2007 with a focus on modernized file servers, but it has since shifted to selling tools that help users securely collaborate with coworkers and third parties.
Egnyte6 questions