Skills a Bootcamp Doesn't Teach You: Part 4


A coding bootcamp is a fantastic accelerator for learning practical development skills. However, there are some skills (both technical and soft) that a bootcamp doesn't or can't teach you. Part 4 of this series explores learning how and when to ask for help when you're truly stuck as a junior developer or as the new person on a team.

Humility and knowing when to ask for help

Sometimes self-sufficiency, Google mojo, and crossing your fingers just aren't enough. Especially if you're struggling with topics that are specific to your company's business domain or that aren't readily "Google-able", there are times when you can only go so far by yourself.

As a new employee, asking for help can be a tumultuous situation rife with politics...you don't want to seem dumb, but you also don't want to bang your head against a problem just because you're too proud to ask someone. However, swallowing your pride can get you un-stuck quickly and feeling happy about your work.

Remedies:

  • Develop relationships with colleagues away from the computer. Often people seem too busy to make small talk, but relationships are best built at "the water cooler," and people are usually open to small breaks throughout the day. Building common ground with a teammate can lead to a better working relationship. People are usually more willing to help you if they've gotten to know you at least a little bit.
  • If a colleague with valuable information (think "tribal knowledge") seems unwilling or too busy to help, try to schedule time in a style that he/she prefers. Some developers prefer that you send a calendar invite to block off time; others are more flexible and willing to engage in the moment. Get to know the people on your team and how they prefer to be approached. Also, try to understand the situation a busy colleague might be in. Is a project going live soon? Focus your effort on approaching them after big deadlines have passed.
  • Let go of your ego. I often think back to the questions I asked in the first few months on the job, and I blush at the thought of them. But, in the end, I'm not embarrassed. I needed that information at the time, and everyone has been the new person on the team - just make sure to seek out people who can actually empathize with you and remember when they were new (there will always be arrogant jerks).