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The software company I work for often hires junior developers when there is a lot if testing to be done and there is time/room for them to get up to speed. However, the senior developers get extremely irritated when asked 'easy' questions that might be googled.

Well not everyone wants to use google as their main source. They are horrified that the juniors didn't learn it in school but it wasn't a job requirement and the juniors didn't put it on their resume so I feel like they don't have the right to get so angry. They even expressed their disgust and annoyance in the team meeting. I find this behaviour to be horrid.

How would you deal with it?

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    I get annoyed when my boss (and other coworkers) come to me with questions on what I believe are easy issues (like formatting a Word file, for example), but I keep it to myself (or complain to friends after work). Maybe someone should point out to the sr devs that it's less annoying to answer a question than to have to fix an error later made by the person that doesn't know. – Voxwoman Mar 7 '15 at 22:32
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    For answers which can be easily found using Google, why would you not do it? – Masked Man Mar 8 '15 at 4:11
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    When you say "How would you deal with it", do you mean as a hired junior developer, as an annoyed senior developer, as a manager, as a member of HR, as a company shareholder, or someone else? Who is "you" in this question; certainly the company-culture-fixing options available to a newly hired junior developer will be different to those open to the company's CEO. – Trevor Powell Mar 9 '15 at 9:52
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    "Well not everyone wants to use google as their main source" ...This include your superior, who you are asking to do your googling for you. When they are busier than you and dealing with more important and urgent matters (which is why you are there to help in the first place). – Desmond Zhou Mar 12 '15 at 19:21
  • I suggest renaming the title of this question to be more specific, e.g. "Hostility when asked questions by junior developers" or similar. As is the title is too broad relative to the subject matter of the question. – A.S Mar 7 at 14:40
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This seems more like a management problem. Senior developers need to be told working with juniors and answering questions is expected of them (That's why they get the big bucks.). If they don't want to be interrupted all the time, they can make arrangements to meet with the juniors at a set time and bundle all the questions together.

There should be some training, so everyone knows what is expected. Certainly questions about company/team policy and procedures are appropriate, but pointing them to the proper documentation would be better (Assuming it exists and if not, it's management's problem.). Basic 'how to' coding questions should start with a search and then go to a senior for clarification.

Juniors who keep asking the same questions, don't try to solve problems themselves or just can't grasp certain concepts need to be handled by the management.

If the mentorship arrangement has been setup properly, they the final piece is to work with the seniors on their people skills. If they don't want to deal with the juniors, they can accept a demotion, so they won't have to worry about them any more.

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Knowing how to help yourself find relevant information is critical to on the job success. Like it or not, Google is a powerful tool for quickly answering questions. It's a good idea to do a quick search before asking others. It's like calling tech support and being able to say you already tried rebooting and it didn't help.

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I've seen this type of behavior in several different workplaces. There's a lot more going on here than "noobs" not understanding how to google for answers to their questions.

Look at it this way, if it really were as easy as googling for information, people would GLADLY do it. Instead, they repeatedly subject themselves to surly "seniors" who resent even talking to these "noobs". No one likes to be treated that way but the fact that they continue to do it makes one realize that the questions are genuine and perhaps there is more to them than face-value.

What the annoyed experts fail to understand is HOW people master skills and knowledge.

They're expecting well-formed, pointed questions which have crisply-defined structured answers. They're expecting questions that demonstrate what they feel is the "right" level of sophistication. What they're forgetting, however, is that MUCH of the battle in mastering new material is learning to ask the right questions and figuring out what things are important and what are irrelevant. Dealing with how people learn is a major function of mentorship and it has been largely forgotten in many of today's organizations where staff are seen as off-the-shelf commodities that get hired to "hit the ground running". It is no wonder then that the so-called "experts" that the OP describes aren't able to provide basic mentorship and even take offense at the opportunity.

Often times, a noob will ask a question which is deliberately simple and for which they already have a rough understanding of the answer (they might have even already googled for it). This can infuriate people who aren't experienced with mentoring/teaching: they think it is a waste of time or that the person asking is too lazy to address their ignorance. What is really going on is that the noob wants to hear how the expert approaches the question in their context. The answer is often a springboard for more sophisticated follow-up questions which have some nuance for the project at hand. You can't get that from a google search (at least not with any efficiency). Moreover, the question/answer/discussion serves as an opportunity for junior and senior talent to speak to each other and get to know each other. The next time they talk, they'll have some background and able to communicate even better. You definitely can't get that from a google search.

The problem with the senior developers the OP is describing is that they're not really senior. They lack the ability to be mentors (which IMHO is a requisite for any senior role). To be fair, it is not their fault, they probably didn't have mentors either.

As for the solution to this problem, the only thing that works is for truly seasoned experts to take the right attitude and provide mentorship both for its own sake and also to demonstrate how it is done for other senior folks. This could also be an opportunity for a senior person to attract a following of noobs who very quickly become effective and raise the profile of themselves and their mentor.

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    Absolutely brilliant response! I can't imagine why someone would be offended by just someone wanting to learn. – Kerry Mar 8 '15 at 5:05
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    @Kerry They might have a deadline they're trying to meet. They might be having a bad day. They might not like how the questions are asked, how many questions are asked, or repeated questions. They might not think the questioner is coming up the curve fast enough. They might also just be antisocial or misogynistic. There are any number of reasons why someone might not like answering questions at any given time. – Eric Mar 8 '15 at 12:55
  • This is absurdly optimistic. If the beginner has the question-asking ability to lead with an intro question, they have enough skill to phrase it "how do you XYZ?" (defer to senior and context) rather than "how can I XYZ?". – Telastyn Mar 8 '15 at 13:26
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    @Telastyn, I don't think trivial semantic alterations in the questions should make a difference to the person being asked. Why would you even bring that up when you're basically suggesting in your answer that these new people should never have been hired. – teego1967 Mar 8 '15 at 15:41
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    @Kerry One possible reason: Because it takes time to hear, understand, and answer questions. If using time for that is not openly valued and supported by management, or worse, if the senior devs' performance is mainly evaluated on how fast they can deliver software then answering questions would be against their own best interest. If it's not part of the senior devs' job to teach then they shouldn't spend significant parts of their working time doing it. So if teaching is desired, management should make it part of their job and recognise and reward good teaching. – AllTheKingsHorses Nov 23 '16 at 8:56
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I don't expect my Junior developers to know everything or even where to find it. I do find it helpful if they tried their hand at Google Foo first before coming to me with each little issue.

Keep in mind that senior devs often have the same or more amount of coding to do along with architecture, planning, etc.

Personally, I think its unprofessional to bring that up in a team meeting though, I would have spoken directly to the junior devs and discuss with them what my expectations are.

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How would you deal with it?

With what?

  1. The fact that my company is hiring junior developers to do testing - a role they are ill equipped for and unlikely to enjoy?
  2. That my senior developers are frustrated that my company keeps hiring these net-loss dimwits when there's work to be done?
  3. That my company manages to hire people who are not even competent enough to use Google?
  4. That our job reqs didn't think something was important, and our interviewers (who, I presume weren't the senior developers in question?) didn't think to ask about it... that our hiring process is clearly not working?

I would deal with it by updating my resume.

Now, I don't suggest you do that. I have very little patience for bureaucratic ineptitude. But hopefully that tells you the severity of the problem you seem to have here is. Your problem isn't that people are being rude, it's that your company as a whole seems to be dysfunctional - so much so that your senior developers are openly voicing their annoyance.

In my experience, voicing displeasure like this a cry for help. It's saying "this jobs sucks so much that I don't care if there are consequences for saying what I think".

What to do about it?

I have no idea. Your situation is your own, so I don't know what will work best there, what resources you have, what political and social clout you have, what challenges and personalities you face. But some ideas:

  1. Have the most social/patient/helpful person on the team be the noob-shepherd. Their job is to answer questions, help the new people get up to speed, be a buffer between the dead weight and the rest of the team.
  2. Talk to HR about reviewing the hiring process now that you've learned some things that are important to look for in candidates.
  3. Hopefully someone in management is competent and can talk with your senior developers. They can gracefully check to see if things are alright, and what sort of problems they are facing. In my experience, your company is unlikely to have a skilled manager. This will be very difficult and if it fails, it will only make things worse. If there are problems, you should work to fix them, and you might need to put in some stopgap (bonuses, raises, promotions, other concessions) to keep these core developers from escalating public griping to departure from the company. If management thinks there's no great problem (other than unprofessional developers) then they can suggest that such gripes be made in private so that the hiring process can be improved without harming morale as much.
  4. When this sort of thing comes up, move the meeting towards the work at hand. Chastising the developers will not go well. Defending the new hires will not go well. But you might be able to cut the bitch-fest short and minimize the impact.
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    (1) That "noob shepherd" is called a "leader". (2) You're jumping to the conclusion that the company has suddenly started hiring "dead weight" when it is more likely that it has been the same since the senior people started. (3) People quit for all kinds of reasons but "noobs asking dumb questions" is not one I've ever seen in real life. On the other hand it is common for good new people to quit if they're unable to get proper support when starting out. (4) Cutting short the bitchfest won't solve the root cause here. – teego1967 Mar 8 '15 at 15:39
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    @teego1967 - (1) not always. In many places, the leader is the one who best interacts with the business side of things, or the one who has the vision for where the product is going. They may not be the best teacher. (3) They're not quitting because of noobs asking questions, they're quitting for whatever reasons are driving them to complain in meetings about noobs asking questions. Beginners asking questions is likely insufficient to drive such anger/unprofessionalism by itself. – Telastyn Mar 8 '15 at 15:55
1

I've been on both sides of this issue multiple times as I've changed focus.

If you're in development, I'm sure you can appreciate how important it is to stay in context while working. The "noobs" are (most likely) breaking your senior devs' concentration with questions. The senior devs most likely don't mind the questions, but the interruptions are destroying their concentration.

The key is to manage the communications. The junior devs as a group need to aggregate their questions, and in doing so, may answer some themselves, ala "Ask The Duck"

Next, the senior devs need to each take a few minutes during the day to answer the queue for the juniors. If you have 4 senior devs, they can each take 1 turn during the day, hitting the queue every 2 hours. That should keep productivity up for everyone. I'd leave it to the senior devs to work out the rotation for themselves.

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The advice I got in first job was:

  1. First, see if you can find the answer yourself (online) within reasonable timeframe.
  2. If not, then ask a peer.
  3. If still no luck, then ask someone more experienced.

This fostered a can-do self-starter culture, but still encouraged for asking questions and knowledge transfer while keeping related time suck for the more experienced/senior staff manageable.

Obviously this evolved, with some folks more willing to answer questions and actually enjoying helping others, to a point. So once relationships formed, occasionally someone might shortcut it to that person before starting on the googling adventure.

You gauge appropriateness given your relationship with that person, how 'close' you are and what attitude they show when approached. Eventually you hit the stride and know when and to whom to go to for what types of questions, and what to brave on your own.

I don't recall it being problematic or causing dissatisfaction one way or another, actually it made good sense and everyone understood the reasons.

Maybe try to promote that? Good luck!

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