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Fearless In The Face Of My Ignorance

I know so much more than I did when I started working as a software developer five years ago, but I seem to have forgotten something: How to remain fearless in the face of my ignorance.

When I started working in software development I got all the advice that we give junior devs - several small PRs are better than one big one, composition over inheritance, write your tests first (or at least concurrently) to your logic, coffee is good but adequate sleep is better. The top thing I heard? Don't be afraid to ask questions. This one puzzled me because I wasn't afraid to ask questions. I was new after all and so of course I didn't know what I was doing. Of course I would be asking a lot of questions.

Five years later and I can't in good faith call myself new at this anymore - I'm the one reminding the junior engineers to get enough sleep! I've been an Android developer for five years, adding in React Native and iOS for the past three. I am competent & comfortable with Java and Kotlin. I've grown to really love Typescript. I know enough Swift to be effective and enough Obj-C to get by. I am passionate about mobile tech and can talk your ear off about Native Modules and the React Native Bridge. But I seem to have forgotten how to remain unafraid of asking questions.

Somewhere along the way I became afraid of saying, "I need help". Somewhere along the way I started avoiding saying, "I don't know". Somehow I got it in my head that I should know it all by now. That I will go to say the words "I need help" and it will come out sounding like "I am not smart enough to be a developer". That I will try to say "I don't know" and everyone will hear "I am incompetent".

So I am choosing to stand fearlessly in the face of my ignorance, and to ask for help. How do you, especially the mid-level and up engineers, keep asking for help? How do you handle the pang of panic when you know you used to know this and now you don't? How do you silence the voice that says you are not good enough? How do you move forward when you can't?

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