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I’m a junior engineer in a team of senior engineers. I don’t have a technical background coming from a 3 month boot camp after graduating with a BSc in English. This means I don’t understand a lot of the concepts as they are new to me. I do a lot of research and reading so I have a general understanding but still get confused on how things are implemented in our company.

I have recently been set a project and given a high level overview of what is expected, however I would find it more helpful if I had a roadmap of the project broken down as I don’t know where to start. However I don’t want to sound stupid or like I am asking to be spoon fed the solution. How do I go about asking for this?

I feel extremely anxious and nervous about approaching standup and team meetings due to this

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6 Answers 6

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This is your first project, and you're only just out of bootcamp.

Spend a short time (no longer than a day) looking at the project, and using your knowledge of any existing projects, break it down into a series of steps. Then go back to your manager, show them the steps, and ask for feedback. Tell them which steps you feel you can start on, and which steps you need help on.

A good manager will help you in the project, and provide guidance. The worst thing you can do is go away for a week or more, and then come back to the manager saying "I have no clue what to do next".

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    Hi, thank you for your response. Thankfully, I made a rough plan and approached a member of my time with my ideas. He was able to give me a bit more guidance and point me in the right direction. I felt extremely anxious all day but after speaking with him feel a lot better. Thank you for your advice, I will definitely remember it for the future
    – sandy
    Commented Oct 24, 2022 at 19:41
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For the technical aspects: "Hello Alice do you have some time ? Not necessary right now as it may take some time. I'm trying to understand X and if I think I understood some things I would be sure I didn't misunderstand and have a few question about some other points like Y or Z"

For you projects: "Hello Manager/Project Manager/Product Owner, I've been tasked with X but X is a bit to big as it is described. Would you have some time so that we can split X in smaller items and maybe see what we should do first and what can be done later."

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  • Hi, thank you for your response. I find messaging quite nerve-racking too as sometimes I’m not sure how to word my questions. That structure you’ve shared is helpful. Thank you so much, I really appreciate it!
    – sandy
    Commented Oct 24, 2022 at 13:39
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How do I go about asking for this?

Talk to your boss. Explain that you aren't sure where to start on your assigned project. Then listen.

You boss may have suggestions on how to figure it out by yourself. Or your boss may have suggestions on who you should be talking to.

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    I would say to go to your tech lead ahead of your boss, but otherwise this. Commented Oct 24, 2022 at 18:50
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I suggest 3 things

  • try and get as much background and contextv on your own before asking for help, until you get stuck. this will prepare you for the next steps

  • ask the project manager, product manager, tech lead, or your manager to help you understand the goals of the project and where your parts fit in. I find it a lot easier to do my part when I understand how it contributes to a larger whole and, where dependencies and interactions with other parts are critical (this is especially true later on your career)

  • as JayZ suggested, ask your teammates for help unblocking specific problems you're facing. I suggest doing it individually instead of asking in a team meeting or slack channel. Try and be concise with your description and validate the assumptions you have. Half the time, just preparing my question helps me figure out where I need to do more research.

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You are a junior. You should be asking questions, especially when you are not sure about how to do something. If I were you I'd ask to have a meeting when they are available to clear some possible misunderstandings you might have about the project. They know your experience so they are expecting questions probably.

Edit: On second thought, a meeting might be unfit for people during their schedule so just let them you need to ask some questions about project when they are available. Don't wait on this, don't let people think "why did it take this long to ask necessary questions"

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Learning a new codebase and the ways of working in a new company is difficult. it's a complicated thing to learn.

I've had the same thing every time I've started a job, and every time I've been able to become comfortable with the codebase. It does take time, and it's not always a comfortable experience, as you're often having to admit that you don't understand things, and it can feel like it's your job to know and understand this stuff. I can only say that everyone goes through it - you get used to it as time goes on.

I also have a BA in English (this is partly why I wanted to add an answer here when there are plenty of other perfectly good ones) and so I do understand that it can be slightly more daunting when you know you may not have the technical qualifications to fall back on, and when you second-guess whether your not understanding something is because you don't have those qualifications. Maybe that's partly what is happening for you here. Happy to help if you have any more questions 👍

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    Hi, thank you for your response it’s reassuring hearing from someone with a similar background . It is definitely daunting coming into such a different field without as much experience/qualifications as your peers. I’m sure in a few more months or a year I’ll be more confident
    – sandy
    Commented Nov 16, 2022 at 14:39

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