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I Have a Question…

But I’m too scared to ask

Sounds familiar? Yep, same.

I became interested in Computer Science the summer before my freshman year in college. I was interested in the tech industry, but I was also very scared. Everyone seemed to have been coding since they were fetuses, and everyone seemed to know everything. How could I possibly keep up?? I was just starting out!

Like any rational human being, I pretended to understand what other engineers and Computer Science majors were talking about. Of course I knew what an API was! Front-end and back-end? Psh, definitely heard of that! Databases are super super cool. I loooooove MVC frameworks. To be honest, I had no idea what anyone was talking about. After every conversation with a developer, I would quickly open my laptop and spend hours Googling everything we talked about. This was quite ridiculous, but I was too afraid and too intimidated to ask questions. I did not want to be the n00b in the room who everyone mocked.

One day, I was at a Javascript workshop, and I asked a question to the speaker. He started using some web development jargon, and I nodded my head and pretended to understand him. I’m sure he started getting a bit suspicious since he was using big developer words, and I seemed to know everything. He then asked me, “Wait, do you know what an [insert web dev concept here]?” Oh shoot. I’m caught. Play cool, play cool. “Umm…yeah!” I said. “Okay, then what is it?” he said. Fuck. This is it, he’s going to think that I’m a n00b and make fun of me. “Umm…actually, I don’t,” I said. He shook his head, “If you don’t know something, then ask!”, and he preceded to talk about the concept.

“If you don’t know something, then ask!”

That moment struck me because it was the first time someone told me it was okay to ask questions. The dude was experienced and extremely knowledgeable, but he did not judge me for not knowing. It shifted my perspective and made a feel a bit better about asking questions. I would like to note that I did not change overnight and suddenly become this person who fearlessly asked questions. It was a process.

I confided to one of my friends that I hesitated to ask question because I was scared of being the “dumb one.” “I mean, all these amazing and intelligent developers started out like us, right?” she said. For some strange reason, we forget that talented people do not come into the world being naturally talented. Everyone has to start somewhere and experienced developers are not exempt from this.

Asking questions is still something I struggle with, but there are a few things I tell myself so I don’t back out. 1) I don’t know what this concept is so it makes sense for me to ask. 2) I could either waste an hour of my time Googling the answer to my question and potentially get nowhere or ask right now and get a clear answer within five minutes. 3) If someone judges me for not knowing the answer to my question, then they’re the dumb one.

If someone judges me for not knowing the answer to my question, then they’re the dumb one.

We can’t expect ourselves to know everything because no one is a walking search engine. I believe that asking questions makes us better developers. Having a question answered produces a domino effect. Once one is answered, you will probably have more questions. This way you become more knowledgeable about the field. It also shows to the other person that we are genuinely curious and passionate about Computer Science. Asking questions does not mean you’re “dumb” person; it means you’re curious.

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