It’s Day 2 of the 30 Days of Summer experiment! If you’re just joining, here are some previous posts (skip if you’ve read them):
What is 30 days of summer?
There’s a lot of literature on the topic of help-seeking and what makes it hard, but I wish we did more to encourage it. For example, consider a startup. It typically attracts people who’ve been successful in things they’ve done before, and pride themselves on being right and figuring it out by themselves. And we spend our time trying to maintain good documentation that people can independently reference when they need to. I’m not arguing against documentation. I think documentation is great. But things change too quickly in a startup for documentation to be the only strategy. Why don’t we recognize help-seeking more as an effective strategy for knowledge-sharing?
I realize this all sounds abstract, and you’re probably thinking: we do do this, we just call it mentorship. I agree that’s a part of it, but I think we don’t do it nearly well-enough, and the moment I realized this saliently was when I joined the startup I currently work at. The codebase had pretty much no documentation or technical design docs, which would typically be stressful and disempowering for a new person. But I had a fantastic mentor. Whenever I messaged him a question, I would get an answer right away. We could jump on a call whenever I wanted. I received code reviews in an hour of submission. This was all very different from my experience working with other people in industry. How did he do it? I think it was small comments like “Oh ya, this bit is super hard” or “That’s a great question”, and that he prioritized helping me whenever he received a Slack notification, at the cost of his own deep work and state of flow. An organization can also go further and establish processes for reflection on one’s help-seeking and help-giving. For example, at a research lab I was a part of in university, I had to fill out a Google Form answering the question “Who can help me with what I’m currently working on” every week. What’s great is that, as an externality of celebrating help-seeking, you end up with a culture that’s accepting and inclusive, and super fun to work in.
Twitter Profile, 2016
Twitter Profile, 2022
Today, I plan to continue learning about design. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have an excellent day!