4

I'm a front-end webdevelopment intern at a medium sized company for three weeks now. I'm working on a fictional project I've been working on since my student job there (2 days a week - 5 months). Now this project is coming to an end and there's starting to pile up some bugs I just can't get fixed.

I notice my work / learning efficiency is starting to decline rapidly. I've repeatedly asked questions on the internal communication tool (Slack), asked personally and tried Stack Exchange in several occasions.

I understand that the bugs of an internship on a fictional project are negligible compared to deadlines of big money projects, but I would really appreciate some more guidance.

It's not so much about these bugs specifically, it's that nobody bothers about me while I'm highly motivated and willing to learn. How can I politely ask for more guidance?

(I feel like suggesting to start following online tutorials after their approval or something like that.)

  • Do you have a mentor or supervisor who's supposed to help you out? Also, can you book someone's time ahead for a longer session of helping you with stuff - which may be better for them to plan around - rather than trying to get immediate help for whatever you're looking at right now? – Hazel Jun 30 '15 at 12:54
  • I have a supervisor but he's not able to help with code. I think it's great advice but I don't want to contact him and have him tell a developer he has to help me, against his will. I'll contact him and try to express my situation. – RobSeg Jun 30 '15 at 12:59
  • 1
    It sounds like talking to your supervisor is going to be the best bet - he will know who's free, who's most likely to be able to help you, and when it's reasonably practical to fit this in around other bill-paying work. It's not about someone being forced to help you against their will, just about working out the best way of getting you that support. – Hazel Jun 30 '15 at 13:05
  • And in most cases, unless already overloaded, developers like sharing what they know. If you can ask good, clear questions that will help a lot. The. Essay "How To Ask Questions The Smart Way" at catb.org is rather blunt but excellent advice on how to help fellow hackers help you, in person as well as online. – keshlam Jun 30 '15 at 13:34
4

The best way to politely ask for more guidance is less about coming off as completely not knowing, but crafting your need for guidance as an interest in the company and that particular function you need guidance for. Instead of asking something like "Can you tell more about xyz, I don't completely understand it", ask questions that pertain to the company and its business or the particular project. It will convey genuine interest in the company/project, while also helping you gain the information and understanding you're after.

3

At the risk of stating the obvious: you just ask. Be polite, ask them if they have a moment to help you, have a brief explanation of the problem in hand, explain what you've tried, and ask what you should try next.

Things to avoid:

  • Saying "I don't know what I'm doing, help!"; This will waste a senior dev's time because they have to drag the relevant information out of you, and they may start making suggestions that you've already tried (thus wasting more time)
  • Barging in and demanding help; ask them if they've got a moment to help you. They have work to do, too, and if you interrupt them while they're in the middle of something, they're far less likely to help.
  • Putting additional work on their shoulders because they helped you; if they give you a suggestion of "go look up X and read about Y", don't ask them to link you to X or Y unless they already have it pulled up. It's your responsibility to at least try to find it first; nothing is more frustrating than doing something nice by helping another person, just for them to dump most of the work onto you.
  • Don't take up too much of their time unexpectedly; if it's a quick question, ask. If, during the conversation, it becomes clear that this is going to take a while, offer to make a meeting. This will allow the team member to set aside time dedicated purely to you, so you should have their full attention.
  • Avoid going to the wrong person for the wrong thing; you're an intern and mistakes happen, but if Bob has told you multiple times that Jimbob deals with all Project X code, don't keep going to Bob to ask him questions about Project X, go to Jimbob.

Edited to add: So asking would be something along the lines of "Hi Bob. Do you have a moment?" "I do, Harbinger. How can I help you?" "I'm having a problem with A; I wrote the code and I'm getting error code B. I've tried X, Y, and Z, but none of them seem to work. Do you have any experience with this, or know of someone else who might know?"

2

In addition to the good advice in this answer:

Try to group your requests to minimize disruptions. Instead of going to somebody once an hour with unrelated questions, batch them up and schedule a meeting to talk about them. That way the person helping you can set aside time for that and will know it's coming. You should have regular check-ins with your mentor anyway, so questions that can be handled in that setting don't need to create any additional load.

Of course, if you're blocked on something and need help now, that's different. But most of your questions will probably be non-blockers -- make any needed notes and then work on a different part of the project until the meeting.

Finally, while some questions/problems require an actual conversation, others can be handled via email. So save the interactive requests for the problems that require that, and send email for the other stuff. Email is less invasive; it doesn't have to be handled right now while the asker is standing at your desk.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.