How do you approach knowledge gaps?

Maniflames on January 13, 2019

It's normal to get stuck from time to time when you are trying to build something. However, when I make the same mistake again and again I know i... [Read Full]

A low tech solution to this that I use is to use post it notes stuck to the bottom of my monitor, as I work I add a note to the screen if I make a mistake, or I lack knowledge of something. I continue to fix the issue and then at the end of the day I get the notes together and can see my gaps in knowledge or stuff I need to remember.

This takes the guess work out finding gaps in my knowledge, I can then prioritise the gaps.


This is a great one! Thanks for your low tech solution, I'm going to try this out ๐Ÿ˜.


I find sometimes that a lower tech solution is better than an app or something fancy, I tried using a timer on my phone for pomodoro timing, but i spend more time setting it up than working, so I just use outlook to set 45 minute meetings with my self. This makes Lync get my status, plus people can't book meeting for the next 45-60 minutes so it works much better.

I guess in some ways we fall in love with a certain level complexity and totally forget there are easier ways to do certain things. I've noticed that blocking out time in my calendar was effective as well for the same reasons. (Also I had no idea what Lync was so I googled it, Microsoft some software solution for anything ๐Ÿ˜‚)


I'm still learning to dig myself out of knowledge gaps without asking my manager for assistance, and I have a question to hopefully bring this discussion even deeper:

How do you balance filling in your knowledge gaps on your own (be it StackOverflow, tutorials, etc.) and getting your assignment in under the deadline? I am currently using time boxing to try to work through something on my own, then I approach my manager for assistance when I've been stuck longer than my allotted time.


Great technique!

To be honest I don't have a solid way of balancing these things out.

Usually when something is wrong I try to find the root cause. Through debugging, googling and trying to find a related issue or pull request on Github.To make sure I explain everything that I have learned I keep track of the whole process by writing new insights down in my notebook.

If I run into a session like this at the end of the day, the stand up the next day is when I ask for someone to help me out. If it's in the morning I'll ask someone to help me after lunch.

The only time I ask for assistance outside of these meeting points is when I run out of 'leads' and unable to understand or find the cause.

I have tried to limit this process to an hour in the past but I'm really stubborn at times, when I think I'm close I stretch it for way too long ๐Ÿ˜….

It doesn't happen too often that this goes on for way too long but there are still some occasions soooo ๐Ÿ™ˆ....

How long do you usually make your timeslots before asking for assistance? And how do you avoid the trap of: "I'm really close though, I got this just a few more minutes" ?


Hey, thanks for the reply! I try to stick to a timebox of an hour or two as well, depending on how complicated the issue is. If it's feeling like I'm really close I'll give it another 10-15mins and then take my findings to the manager or more senior developer and tell them what I've got and ask if they have any input on how to get to the next step. I'm the same as you, I'll go on all day if I feel like I'm close and "just need a few more minutes" so I really try to be disciplined about it.

Pomodoros are actually a great way to timeblock and not let yourself carry on all day - give yourself until the end of your current/next pomodoro period to solve it, and if you cant, it's time to recruit help.

This is definitely one I'll have to practice but it will be worth it. Thanks for the advice ๐Ÿ˜.


I take notes about the comments in my PRs. What types of feedback am I getting? Is it a small mistake I made (Forgetting a preferred format once or twice) or is it a consistent comment I am getting. If it's consistent, that helps me a ton to figure out where my gaps are.

Right now, my gaps are writing jest tests. I am transitioning to writing React components from scratch + d3 from Drupal development. I have experience with React and jest, but not writing them from scratch. I take notes of where I have good instincts (where someone likes what I did) and where someone comments that it could be improved.

I am pretty active about asking questions while coding too. I tell my mentors "This is my instinct/gut feeling, but I want to make sure I am not going down a rabbit hole." This helps me TREMENDOUSLY :D


This is a strong idea, others often see what you don't. Sometimes it's very easy to look at feedback, nod and forget about in no time. Taking notes while receiving feedback + being active about asking questions are things I should do more often ๐Ÿ˜…. Thanks for the advice Lindsey ๐Ÿ˜Š


You're welcome! I didn't go through any formal training in web dev, so I find random gaps in my knowledge all the time. I'm almost an expert at finding my knowledge gaps ๐Ÿ˜‚


hey Imani! Personally my approach is mostly: research the crap out of it ๐Ÿ˜„

Iโ€™ve found it also helps a lot to write/teach about what you learned (even if itโ€™s just your assumption of how you understood it). It puts you into a position where you likely donโ€™t want to get it wrong, while at the same time, itโ€™s okay to get it wrong. And maybe someone points you to right direction.

Bonus points: create a POC based on what youโ€™re learning or trying to understand.

I think just being in a position where youโ€™re willing to ask (like youโ€™re doing now) about things you donโ€™t understand already puts you in the right path. Somestimes growth comes more from being able to ask the right questions, and less so about knowing the answers themselves (thatโ€™s what googleโ€™s for ๐Ÿ˜†)


Definitely agree, google is our best friend ๐Ÿ˜‚. Sometimes it's kinda hard to ask the right questions but I guess that is a skill you improve over time. Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ˜

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