Unsure of what you’re doing but scared to admit it? Instructor Sandy McMillan offers some advice.
One of the hardest things to do when working with a new group of people can be to ask for help if you need it.
It’s that horrible feeling you get when you don’t know something but don’t want to say because you think that others think you should know it.
This is something our students experience here at CodeClan and is something we can all relate to.
I remember when I went into my first programming job. I was literally straight out of university (by a week) and I was both excited and nervous. I’d been programming in C and C++ for 2 years at uni and had done a whole course on the type of software I was going to be working on so I thought I would be OK.
That was before I saw the code base.
I was told it was C and C++ but you could have fooled me. It looked nothing like anything I’d worked on at Uni and was way more complicated. That’s when imposter syndrome set in. For months I felt like I was hiding, learning little bits here and there.
Everyone seemed to know way more than I did so I was scared to ask for help because then I’d be found out and I’d be let go.
So I kept my head down and muddled on the best way I could.
Asking for help
Then came my first performance review and I got one of the best pieces of advice I’ve had in my career – don’t be afraid to ask for help. In fact that became my main performance goal for the year.
I realised that I wasn’t expected to know everything so soon and that others were there to help me if I needed it. There I’d been, worrying for months about asking for people for help and then I found that, when I did, they were more than happy to help me.
That’s what’s great about this industry. We’re a community and that means we’re there to help out if we can. If you go to sites like StackOverflow you’ll see that there are literally thousands of developers, from all over the world, all helping each other out, asking and answering questions.
We try to instil that kind of community atmosphere at CodeClan. The students are encouraged to work things out for themselves, but they do it knowing that there’s a network there to help them if they need it, be it web sites like StackOverflow, fellow students, or the instructors.
If they get totally stuck on something, then there’s always someone they can ask for help.
We also encourage students to ask questions in class, no matter how trivial that question may appear to them. At the start of every new cohort the students are told ‘No question is a stupid question.’
If a student has a particular question then there’s a good chance that at least one other person in the class may have the same question but are afraid to ask.
I still get times when I hit the proverbial brick wall. But now I know that I can ask for help without worrying about it.
So if you see me walking towards you carrying my laptop, I might just be needing your help.
Carving a career as a developer: My coding journey