I'm on paid internship in IT at a large bank where scope is for me to learn and to a get to a level of junior/professional with 2 or 3 years experience, so I can get hired.

Thus I came to a strategy of making a lot of questions, even dumb ones when I never touched some new technology they're asking me to work with and confirm my actions when I'm not sure about its impact (don't want to mess things up, I already did once though). Furthermore I try to be as honest as nd direct as possible and I'm learning a lot. I also try to maintain an positive mood around as much as possible (IT isn't always happiness and rainbows) but it has been almost 6 months still I feel like sometimes my colleagues get angry, irritated or annoyed when I ask them a question about something new (new in a sense I never touched that/knew that project before)... :-(

Am I not doing as I'm supposed to? What can I do to stop getting this negative feeling back and still learn at the rate I am now?

  • Although that answer helps @gnat it isn't in the same perspective. .. I wanted to know if it is wrong and more I wanted to know the why.
    – CMPSoares
    Sep 26, 2015 at 1:40

3 Answers 3


Nothing wrong with asking questions unless they're such that it shows you have made little or no attempt to work out the answer for yourself first.

Use whatever resources are available to you to do a bit of research on issues yourself before bugging someone else. They will notice and appreciate it.

Question A (annoying) "I couldn't login, do you think it's because I didn't capatilise the first letter in my password, I thought case didn't matter? Please help me!"

Question B (reasonable) "I'm having an issue getting my SQL statement to work correctly. I have tried this, this and this, and spent half an hour on google trying to find a solution but I'm stumped. When you have a bit of time can you give me an assist please."

Question C (best question) "I need to do X, could you show me where I can find out how to do that?" (assuming that you're not talking to the person who was tasked to make the documentation which doesn't yet exist)

Also a lot of peoples attitudes can also hinge on how you take their answers as well. So:

Question D (possibly make people reluctant to find time although it may seem reasonable) I'm having an issue getting my SQL statement to work correctly. I have tried this, this and this, and spent half an hour on google trying to find a solution but I'm stumped. When you have a bit of time can you give me an assist please." (During and after which I want to engage in a long winded and non productive conversation on irrelevancies like I did last time)

  • 1
    Question C (best question) "I need to do X, could you show me where I can find out how to do that?"
    – HorusKol
    Sep 24, 2015 at 1:06
  • 1
    nice addition, I'll add that, hope you don't mind
    – Kilisi
    Sep 24, 2015 at 1:14
  • 1
    Go ahead :) It's all making the workplace better
    – HorusKol
    Sep 24, 2015 at 1:15
  • 1
    @CMPSoares sorry my comment wasn't aimed at you, it was a reply to another comment, that has been deleted, I like question B as well, but in some situations eg., well documented issues, question C would get a thumbs up
    – Kilisi
    Sep 24, 2015 at 2:17
  • 1
    Relevant: Rubberduck problem solving.
    – ThatGuy
    Sep 24, 2015 at 10:20

In my internship (also IT company), my experienced work colleagues were also getting annoyed when receiving a lot of these 'I have no idea what's happening' questions from me or other interns. Indeed, it causes people to lose focus on what they were doing and could take time to get into it again.

One of the senior developers actually told me that it's okay to ask, but you should first research that on your own (there's a lot of good stuff on the internet). Have you done that?

You have to learn to be independent as well, so my impression is that you should ask less and less with the time. Also, maybe your questions could transition from 'what does this do?' to 'I encountered this problem and I read this and that about fixing it. I'm not sure what's the best solution from A and B, but I think B could be better because x. Would you say the same?'

Also, if you guys use some kind of IM, maybe send a line to the person that you want to approach and say 'Hey, when you have 2 minutes, I'd like to hear your opinion on an issue I encountered.' This will allow this person to leave what he's doing in a continuable state and help you when he can.

  • 2
    I'd also suggest bunch up a few questions together instead of interrupting them lots of times. You could then even ask to schedule a meeting to get them all out of the way at once :)
    – Jane S
    Sep 24, 2015 at 0:50
  • 1
    Thanks for the answer @Alex. I already try those approaches. In my case its an internal project I'm working on and I documentation is lacking. And most of the times I ask them something it's some strange configuration problem, those you try every approach on the Internet and still can't fix it. And then you finally decide to ask him well I tried A, B, C and D all the way to Y but nothing fixes it. And he's like "oh that's just Z" and fixes it in 2 minutes while I lose a whole day at least. It's just counter productive... Or it ends up having me reverse engineer deprecated software for the fix.
    – CMPSoares
    Sep 24, 2015 at 0:58
  • @JaneS We used to do so but they stopped scheduling these meetings and I don't know why.
    – CMPSoares
    Sep 24, 2015 at 1:02
  • 2
    Yea, that kind of thing happened to me as well. They also said that if you can't fix it in like 2 hours or a reasonable amount of time, then you shouldn't waste more time on it and it's okay to ask. This of course, after researching about the problem and trying a couple of things. Ow and I'm not sure you can do much about bad documentation.
    – Alex
    Sep 24, 2015 at 1:02
  • 1
    @CMPSoares and who's stopping you from setting up meetings? It sounds like your manager or someone else setup meetings initially, but now you're expected to have learned how to do that. Sep 24, 2015 at 1:45

I partially agree with @klisi's (and others') answer that says you must demonstrate some level of effort at resolving your problems before bringing them, as questions, to others.

It appears, however, that you're already doing that and you are still getting surly responses and perhaps sense an unwillingness to communicate.

There's one other dimension here which needs to be considered and I think it is the key to succeeding in an environment where you have a lot to learn and face a lack of cooperation from others who are capable of helping you. Basically, these coworkers might not know how to mentor interns. Merely having a high level of knowledge and skills does not make someone a good mentor.

In an ideal situation, mentors would assess their students by engaging in dialog and also challenge the students with problems and insightful critiques (basically the Socratic method). You're not getting that, sadly. It is hard to say why this is happening, but I think the most typical reason would be that these folks were treated the same way as they are treating you when they were starting out. They may feel that they're doing "the right thing" by letting you sink or swim. Or it could be that you're in a sweatshop environment were project managers are pushing everyone (including those who would be your mentors) for "deliverables" without regard to developing skills and talent amongst the team.

So, your mentors suck. But all is not lost. What this means is that you need to take more responsibility for your learning and "manage your mentors" to get what you need to develop professionally. There are a few tips that come to mind, based on my own experience with this type of environment:

  • Obviously, ask good questions which demonstrate effort like the others said. Nobody wants to help you by "spoon-feeding" you knowledge.

  • Be mindful of when you're asking questions. Everyone has different times throughout the day when they need to focus on their work and other times when they're receptive to dialog. Its up to you to find those times and recognize that it is different for everyone. You want to make it easy for them to interact with you. You don't want to be that guy that interrupts their focus at the worst possible time.

  • Take notes. Really, really, listen to what these folks are telling you. Act like what they're saying is super-important and express gratitude even though they may be dismissive to you in their attitude. Review your notes, apply that knowledge, and ask pointed follow-up questions in the next opportunity. You never want to ask the same question twice (it shows lack of effort).

  • Develop rapport with as many as you can. This is rather nebulous, but very critical. It is easy to get focused on protocol and doing everything right, but the problem with that is your interactions will appear very stilted and transactional (no one likes that). This means taking some initiative.... Are you doing good things without prompting? Are you taking away some of their work-burden in some way? Can you make a joke? Are you giving them a novel point of view or some information which they may not have?

  • Once you have some rapport, you can then ask questions that are deeper than "How do I x, y and z?". That's the stage you should aim for for a successful internship.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .