How to Not be a Total N00b
Are you a total n00b?
Do you walk around proudly pronouncing fillet like in ballet instead skillet? You may be a n00b. It’s okay if you are.
I once was myself. I thought k-factor was when someone had an undefinable special medium quality. I thought kerf was cheap imitation Nerf. I thought we had the world’s hungriest machinist the way he was always talking about scallops and chips.
But just like my freshman high school yearbook I can look back now and grimace slightly less. So, let’s have a dialogue on how we can come togeth…… LeeeeEEEEROY JENKINS!
Ask a Lot of Questions
Questions are your compass. They give you your direction. Keep going back to your “compass” to stay on course. When a fresh employee starts, and they aren’t asking questions, I get very worried. Worried that they can’t be going in the right direction with the experiential knowledge they have.
As a more experienced professional and employee even I may not be totally clear on the goal. The misconception is that asking questions is an open admission of a shortcoming. There is not an assumption that you, the new employee, are the all-knowing knower of all the things.
Unless you put omniscience on your resume, it is assumed that you are at the level stated and have the technical and education credentials you claimed. There is a learning curve involved with joining new organizations. Learning the unique culture, software, processes, and skills. Asking questions to accelerate through the learning curve is pro [k21]. Stubbornly inefficient trial and error is total n00b.
Ask Good Questions
Being around people with encyclopedic knowledge in your chosen field of expertise can be both exciting and intimidating.
You are an information sponge surrounded by knowledge fountains. Or, through a different lens, an alien parasitic brain leech. Try to ask questions around what to do, not how to do it. Avoid the temptation to let directional questions digress into direct technical questions.
The ease, certainty, and safety of overusing provided information can result in a complacency crutch that stunts your growth. The difference is subtle, but think of your talented coworkers as mentors, not teachers. As such, do learn all you can by listening and observation in the most unobtrusive ways. Particularly about mistakes.
But don’t just regurgitate. Your value is not as a lesser copy but through improved solutions and methodologies. Do ask a Zen Koan on occasion to keep people on their toes. What is the color of wind?
Batch questions. Take it upon yourself to create a system that works for both parties. For example, emailing a list of questions or using scheduled stand up times.
Politeness and cultural norms dictate that a coworker will stop what they are doing and answer your question. Answering others’ questions with enough frequency can cross a threshold where it becomes a significant work impediment.
Understand that you are taking someone out of the flow of what they are doing and getting back in that same flow mindset isn’t as easy as turning a switch on. If people have headsets on or their door is closed, take the hint. Also, first coffee then talkee.
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