Getting Help

Introduction

Every developer, no matter the experience level, gets stuck, every single day. It’s very important to understand that it’s absolutely normal to spend hours, days, sometimes weeks, trying to solve one single problem. I’ve seen many programming students getting frustrated and quitting because they just don’t expect it to be this way. There’s no such thing as entering a flow state and having your project magically finished without hiccups. At least for most mortals.

Every project is a bumpy road. When studying, every little thing you try to do will require some level of troubleshooting. In a professional environment, there will be a constant back-and-forth between developers, “product owners”, “quality assurance” professionals and stakeholders to make sure the requirements are being met.

Thought Patterns

The sooner you understand that this is the nature of the work, the better. Your attitude towards these errors is the single most important factor that will determine your success. I know it can be disheartening sometimes. I’ve been stuck with errors for weeks. So what kept me going? I have two thought patterns that I trained myself to use in difficult programming situations:

1 – Quitting is not an option.
2 – “We have a drone on Mars”. If we are able to control a drone on Mars, THERE IS A SOLUTION for whatever programming problem I’m having.

Remember this: THERE IS A SOLUTION. It will take many years of programming to run into problems that haven’t been solved before. So if you stick to it, no matter how long it takes, you will solve it. So let’s see how we solve problems in software development.

Double Check Your Code

When something doesn’t work in your code, the first step is to double check it. Read it carefully, word by word. You’ll inevitably have typos, missing words, misplaced code and often times you’ll be able to fix things just by reading again with more attention.

If you’re following a tutorial, check the instructors code again. You might have also missed something. In video tutorials, sometimes the teacher will slightly change the code and you’ll miss it because of editing. With time you’ll sharpen your attention to detail and make less of these mistakes, but always keep this tool up your sleeve.

Read The Error

It might seem obvious, but even experienced developers sometimes just don’t read the errors. More often than not, the solution will be contained in the error message. Software these days is being written with special attention to error messages to help debugging and you’ll be surprised with how much you can solve by just carefully reading its contents.

Look It Up

The next step is to look your error up. Basically you have to ask google or chat gpt. When you’re hired you’ll be searching for stuff on your favourite search engine dozens of times a day. I still remember my first day on my first job, when a senior dev was helping me with some Javascript code and he searched for something on google. It was an eye-opener. Everyone does it. It doesn’t mean lack of knowledge, it just means humans aren’t robots that have everything accessible in a hard drive in their brains. Instead, the best developers know where to look.

For the first few years of your journey, rest assure that most of your questions will have been answered before. When you run into a problem without previous answers, chances are you didn’t ask the question correctly. The best way to do it is to copy and paste your error, verbatim. Except, of course, for the part that’s specific to your application.

Post Your Question

If you google the problem using your own words or copying and pasting the error, you’ll quickly find out that most of these questions have been answered on Stackoverflow.com.

Even though you’ll find answers in different resources, this is the most reliable forum for programmers. You should create an account and if you can’t fix a certain problem, post your code and you’ll get help.

Have a look at my account on stack overflow and you’ll see that I asked tons of questions throughout my journey. Most of these questions weren’t unique. They were problems that have already been solved but I couldn’t translate them into my code. With experience you’ll be able to adapt someone else’s answers to your code, but sometimes you’ll have to post your own for someone else to have a look.

Remember. THERE IS A SOLUTION.

Ask Someone

More likely than not, you’ve already solved your problem by now, but if even Stackoverflow didn’t do it, you might need to ask someone. It could be a friend that has experience in the stack you’re training, or someone in our community, or myself. I ask questions every day at work, either to the senior devs, to the QA people, to my boss, or even junior devs that have more specific domain experience.

For asking questions directly, I recommend that first you verbalise it really well. Just by doing that you might come up with the solution. And also you save the person’s time because it will be easier to understand. Also make sure you have really exhausted every possible avenue. In your first job, you’ll have problems if you ask questions that are easy to look up, so it’s better to incorporate good habits right now.

Have a Break

You have everything it takes. The grit, the will power, you never quit. Now sometimes that gets in the way of solving a problem. After hours trying to fix something, the best to do is probably to have a break. Going for a walk does wonders. Go to the gym, talk to someone, socialise, sleep. If you can’t do any of these things, ok, watch something on Youtube or Netflix, but generally try doing things that don’t involve a screen.

Remember, looking at a problem for hours isn’t a waste of time. Your brain is piecing everything together. You’re getting familiar with the code. An unproductive day stuck with a problem is really a great opportunity for learning. You learned a thousand ways it doesn’t work. And then, all of the sudden, in the middle of a break, you might have that Eureka moment. Or when you get back into it, you’ll have a fresh brain and renewed perspective. Trust me, it works!

Introduction

Every developer, no matter the experience level, gets stuck, every single day. It’s very important to understand that it’s absolutely normal to spend hours, days, sometimes weeks, trying to solve one single problem. I’ve seen many programming students getting frustrated and quitting because they just don’t expect it to be this way. There’s no such thing as entering a flow state and having your project magically finished without hiccups. At least for most mortals.

Every project is a bumpy road. When studying, every little thing you try to do will require some level of troubleshooting. In a professional environment, there will be a constant back-and-forth between developers, “product owners”, “quality assurance” professionals and stakeholders to make sure the requirements are being met.

Thought Patterns

The sooner you understand that this is the nature of the work, the better. Your attitude towards these errors is the single most important factor that will determine your success. I know it can be disheartening sometimes. I’ve been stuck with errors for weeks. So what kept me going? I have two thought patterns that I trained myself to use in difficult programming situations:

1 – Quitting is not an option.
2 – “We have a drone on Mars”. If we are able to control a drone on Mars, THERE IS A SOLUTION for whatever programming problem I’m having.

Remember this: THERE IS A SOLUTION. It will take many years of programming to run into problems that haven’t been solved before. So if you stick to it, no matter how long it takes, you will solve it. So let’s see how we solve problems in software development.

Double Check Your Code

When something doesn’t work in your code, the first step is to double check it. Read it carefully, word by word. You’ll inevitably have typos, missing words, misplaced code and often times you’ll be able to fix things just by reading again with more attention.

If you’re following a tutorial, check the instructors code again. You might have also missed something. In video tutorials, sometimes the teacher will slightly change the code and you’ll miss it because of editing. With time you’ll sharpen your attention to detail and make less of these mistakes, but always keep this tool up your sleeve.

Read The Error

It might seem obvious, but even experienced developers sometimes just don’t read the errors. More often than not, the solution will be contained in the error message. Software these days is being written with special attention to error messages to help debugging and you’ll be surprised with how much you can solve by just carefully reading its contents.

Look It Up

The next step is to look your error up. Basically you have to ask google or chat gpt. When you’re hired you’ll be searching for stuff on your favourite search engine dozens of times a day. I still remember my first day on my first job, when a senior dev was helping me with some Javascript code and he searched for something on google. It was an eye-opener. Everyone does it. It doesn’t mean lack of knowledge, it just means humans aren’t robots that have everything accessible in a hard drive in their brains. Instead, the best developers know where to look.

For the first few years of your journey, rest assure that most of your questions will have been answered before. When you run into a problem without previous answers, chances are you didn’t ask the question correctly. The best way to do it is to copy and paste your error, verbatim. Except, of course, for the part that’s specific to your application.

Post Your Question

If you google the problem using your own words or copying and pasting the error, you’ll quickly find out that most of these questions have been answered on Stackoverflow.com.

Even though you’ll find answers in different resources, this is the most reliable forum for programmers. You should create an account and if you can’t fix a certain problem, post your code and you’ll get help.

Have a look at my account on stack overflow and you’ll see that I asked tons of questions throughout my journey. Most of these questions weren’t unique. They were problems that have already been solved but I couldn’t translate them into my code. With experience you’ll be able to adapt someone else’s answers to your code, but sometimes you’ll have to post your own for someone else to have a look.

Remember. THERE IS A SOLUTION.

Ask Someone

More likely than not, you’ve already solved your problem by now, but if even Stackoverflow didn’t do it, you might need to ask someone. It could be a friend that has experience in the stack you’re training, or someone in our community, or myself. I ask questions every day at work, either to the senior devs, to the QA people, to my boss, or even junior devs that have more specific domain experience.

For asking questions directly, I recommend that first you verbalise it really well. Just by doing that you might come up with the solution. And also you save the person’s time because it will be easier to understand. Also make sure you have really exhausted every possible avenue. In your first job, you’ll have problems if you ask questions that are easy to look up, so it’s better to incorporate good habits right now.

Have a Break

You have everything it takes. The grit, the will power, you never quit. Now sometimes that gets in the way of solving a problem. After hours trying to fix something, the best to do is probably to have a break. Going for a walk does wonders. Go to the gym, talk to someone, socialise, sleep. If you can’t do any of these things, ok, watch something on Youtube or Netflix, but generally try doing things that don’t involve a screen.

Remember, looking at a problem for hours isn’t a waste of time. Your brain is piecing everything together. You’re getting familiar with the code. An unproductive day stuck with a problem is really a great opportunity for learning. You learned a thousand ways it doesn’t work. And then, all of the sudden, in the middle of a break, you might have that Eureka moment. Or when you get back into it, you’ll have a fresh brain and renewed perspective. Trust me, it works!

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