Habit: Asking For Help

When I first became a Senior Engineer and was told that I was now expected to mentor my juniors I had no idea what to do. Soon my own panic was replaced by a greater one. None of my juniors were asking for anything and I had no idea what was happening.

I decided to go sit with them for parts of my day. This one act changed everything for me. I began to see how they work, their struggles, and their strengths. One thing that kept coming up though was suggesting that there wasn’t any need to struggle for long here. I was there to help, just ask.

In time I developed my own way of mentoring junior developers and that brings me to the habit that I encourage all of my mentees to adopt:

If you’re stuck for more than five minutes, ask for help.

This bit of advice sounds extreme, but the truth is that as developers we all get tempted by the seduction that if we just have a few more minutes we’ll be able to solve the problem. Those minutes turn to hours, which turn to days. The reality is, some of those struggles are going to be tricky for everyone. Most, however, will be quickly resolved by someone on your team.

It is a trait of those senior devs to recognize when they need help, to declare it, and go get it. They don’t spend forever cycling on the same problems. Take on the habit now, ask for help.

You aren’t going to be seen as less capable. The opposite is true, you’ll be seen as someone who knows that it is more effective to ask for help than waste time struggling.

So start asking for help!