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Discussion on: What habit do many senior engineers have that juniors should try to avoid adopting?

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Ben Halpern Author

One thing that comes to mind for me:

An insecure justification of why you don’t know something (off the top of your head). Some folks lose this habit over time, others only get worse.

It’s okay not to know something, you don’t have to explain the specific reason why you don’t happen to know that. Sometimes you just won’t know a thing and you don’t need to nervously elaborate on why you don’t know.

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Stephen Belovarich • Edited on

😮 I’ve been senior or lead/principal for about a decade and sometimes I think I’m the only one who will say “I don’t know. I’ll do some research and get back to you.” I’m happy there are others who will do the same. I’m an engineer Jim, not an encyclopedia.

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Lisa Armstrong • Edited on

"I don't know everything, if I was that smart, you couldn't afford me. ;-)
However, let me look into it and I'll get back to you. "
... and then get back to them.

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I'm a big proponent of "I don't know" being a safe phrase on my team. I would much rather hear "IDK" than hear (and see) someone grasping for an answer.

That being said, it helps nubies to empathize. Let them know this is very common. When new devs start working, I think they are used to being the smartest person in the room their whole lives. Suddenly, everyone is just like that! It's a shocker for them. Eventually the shock wears off and they become more comfortable being vulnerable.

Wish I had a boatload of humility to pass around. We could save a lot of time getting through this issue!