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Things to consider while asking for advice

Karan
Currently all about using mindfulness/emotions to improve as a software engineer. CTO/Co founder - doctorc.in, Previous - Employee @ Funzio (acquired for $210M), M Eng in CS from Cornell
・2 min read

This is a comment I posted earlier on this discussion. Wanted to share it with the wider community.


I frequently receive cold emails for some advice. I love helping people but its only possible to do so if -

  • The ask is highly specific - The help needs to be very specific request. Which means no "meeting for coffee", no "general discussion", no "pick your brains about an idea i have", nothing vague.

  • The ask has high context - The context has to be explained upfront and has to be specific too. The answer that is right for person X is not right for person Y. Hence the answer to most questions is always in the territory of "it depends on the situation". Describe your situation and the answer becomes useful for you.

  • The ask has high relevance - Do your research on the person before sending an email. Don't ask a software engineer about hardware problems. Don't ask a highly technical person management questions and vice versa. The question needs to be relevant to the experience of the person who is asked the question. If you can't figure out if its relevant - ask them that if the question is relevant to their experience.

Examples -

  • A good ask - “I know you have built analytics systems before. I am currently building one for my project which needs to ingest 10 GB / day and in 6 months scale to 1 TB / day. We are currently using Azure and are open to using tools from Java and Python. How do I design it so that it scales well?"

  • A bad ask - "I loved your post about X. Can we connect to discuss more of it?"

  • A good ask - "I am currently struggling with React JS and building apps in which use redux. Can you help me understand it? I will need 45 mins of active discussion to give you context."

  • A bad ask - "I need help on what to do with my career."

  • A good ask - "I am not sure what I want to do next. I am a fresh graduate with no professional experience and I am currently thinking AI/ML vs Blockchain. Money is tight and I really need to figure this out in a month or so."

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