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Working Smarter: 5 Steps To Getting Unstuck with Rukia Sheikh-Mohamed

rukiaasm profile image Rukia ・2 min read

I am a software engineer based in the Twin Cities, MN who is passionate about all things tech. During my day job I work as full-stack dev at Soona. I enjoy talking about tech at local and national events/conferences, creating cool stuff on the side, and writing tech articles to share useful information and tips. During my free time I enjoy spending time with my baby boy, traveling the world, and creating fun DIYs.


  • A personal story from my first tech job that change my outlook on ""there is no such thing as a dumb question.""
  • Sharing the story on how the types of questions I asked negatively affected my superior's perception of my tech skills.
  • State what my talk will consist of: addressing 5 steps with examples of asking effective questions on the internet(stack overflow, medium, google in general) and to team members.


  • Walk through an example of a technical problem that might get you stuck (with code samples) and how to go through the 5 steps to asking the right questions to get to a solution.
  • For example 1. Start by doing your own troubleshooting (through the internet, StackOverflow, Medium, Youtube, etc, reading error messages).
  • 2. Make sure question is specific for example instead of asking ""why am i getting a migration error during rollback-rails"" to ""how to correctly rollback migration column in rails"".
  • Go through each of the 5 steps and finally get to the working solution.


  • Summarizing 5 steps and take aways
  • Ending with story from personal experience how using these steps have helped me work smarter and decreased levels of imposter syndrome by not feeling my questions were dumb questions

Here is a download link to the talk slides (PDF)

This talk will be presented as part of CodeLand:Distributed on July 23. After the talk is streamed as part of the conference, it will be added to this post as a recorded video.


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Proud of you Rukia :)
I am sure that you are an inspiration of many Muslim girls that know you .


As a Muslim girl, I certainly am inspired by Rukia! I actually haven't seen much software engineers who also wear a scarf and it's just inspiring to see someone like me who has made it!


Unfortunately , it's true.


aww I'm so happy to hear that Shazena! We gotta be the change for the younger generation! πŸ’ͺ🏾


Thank you so much Omar!! I really appreciate it!! This comment really meant a lot to me!


Love that, "survivor of the first 6 months of 2020" lol


lol yes Nicole πŸ’ͺπŸΎπŸ™…πŸΎβ€β™€οΈ


Asking good questions really is a skill!


Re: Step 4, I worked tech support / customer service for many years, and the "what did you see + what did you expect to see" way of framing things can be really key in getting (and providing!) the right kind of help.


Such a helpful way of handling the issue!


I have lost count of how many times step 4 has gotten me unstuck without even sending the message. Just the act of writing out the problem in detail and all the things I've tried will often just set off a lightbulb moment for me and I'll realize what I forgot/did wrong/haven't tried yet, etc. This is a great talk!


yesss Kate!! That's why I LOVE step 4! Glad you enjoyed it.


In my experience, 9 times out of 10, as soon as I ask for help...I figure it out before they can answer my question! What a great talk, and completely valid in reference to struggling with writing code.


Ah soo true Chase!! Glad you liked it.


I've been looking forward to this talk all day! :)


Big +1 for including what you have tried. This helps narrow down the search for a solution.


I really enjoy the gifs that support the info, Rukia. Excellent work on the whole presentation!


Thank you Di. I love GIFs so glad you enjoyed it!


Shoutout to Minnesota nice! This is such wonderful information for developer of ALL skills levels to rely upon! Thank you!


lol, Minnesota nice πŸ˜…! Thank you Josh.


As a code newbie, I was waiting for this talk. So far I have learned to how google and use stackoverflow.


Glad you benefited from it Jane!!


I recently landed my first software engineering role, so this has been so incredibly useful to me. Thank you so much, Rukia.


Congrats on your new role Victoria! So glad you enjoyed the talk. You're very welcome.


RE: Step 2: "over-specifying" is something I had to learn the hard way. 'Be less specific' and know what you're really looking for is key!


Loved it! I seem to stay stuck! Thank you Rukia for sharing these tips! Whew!


I'm an expert at being stuck 😬 so i feel you! Glad you enjoyed it Sharetta!


Loved the breathing exercise during the talk!


We all gotta breathe a little more. Thank you Eduardo!


What an amazing panel! What great tips to think about the next time I debug (particularly with better ways to ask questions to others!)


I love this, Rukia! Great advice! :)


Great job! Step-by-step so you don't become overwhelmed. Great tips!


Thanks Bill. Glad you enjoyed it.


Love your talk and the clear steps you've laid out Rukia! Step 5 is maybe the most important step IMO. 90% of the time walking away from 20 mins helps me figure out whatever I'm stuck on.


Thanks Emily! Yes, same here. Glad you enjoyed it.


Awesome presentation and talk @rukiaasm !! Really useful tips, thank you for sharing.


Thank you Kate!!! Glad you enjoyed it.


Yes! Stepping away is huge! There are many times when I just go for a quick walk and when I get back to my computer, everything is more clear!


THIS ^! Exactly Rachel, almost every time.


That was an amazing talk! Such good advice that I will try to keep in mind as I move further into my coding journey!


Thank you Patty. Yes, these steps help me at every level (newbie, jr, and now mid).