Mark Needham

Thoughts on Software Development

“Everything I know everyone else knows”

with 3 comments

For as long as I can remember I’ve had the belief that, at least as far as software is concerned, everything I know how to do everyone else also knows how to do.

I carried that assumption for quite a while and only realised relatively recently how harmful it can be.

The most observable outcome I noticed is that I either didn’t give my opinion in group situations or just didn’t take part in them because I assumed that what I wanted to say would eventually be contributed by someone else anyway.

The danger of doing that is that sometimes people didn’t come up with a solution I’d seen work before and I’d be extremely frustrated because it seemed like the others were making what I considered bad decisions deliberately.

I think this belief evolved from the fact that for several years I was nearly always the least experienced person on the teams that I worked on and it was often true that my colleagues knew way more about almost everything than I did.

As time has gone on I’ve seen more situations and gained some ideas on approaches which work and I haven’t been the least experienced in the teams I’ve been working on so the belief doesn’t necessarily hold anymore.

I’m not sure if this is a common stage to go through on the software journey so it’d be interesting to hear about your experience.

I’m now moving more towards an approach where I give my opinions in situations where I have some knowledge while also accepting the fact that there will be other situations where others know much more than me.

In those situations I can legitimately keep quiet and learn from my colleagues experiences.

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Written by Mark Needham

March 13th, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Learning

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  • Chris Read

    I am glad you wrote about this. I don’t think enough people realise it and it certainly does not only apply to software.

    I would point out though that if no one mentions what you consider to be an obvious point or suggestion, respectfully supply it yourself. Even if you are surrounded by those you consider more experienced, they may not have had a specific experience that you may have learned from.

  • Rob Vander Sloot

    I don’t know whether this is a common stage for Software professionals, but I can say that your story almost perfectly mirrors my own experience.

  • @Chris – yeh that’s true – that covers the bit about total experience/experience in certain areas which explains why people can be very useful even if they have less experience than you. Good stuff.