Approaching my 1st anniversary at Avanceon, I was thinking about all of the new things I had learned over the course of the year. Nearly every day, I encountered new challenges. There were technologies that I had never worked with before and new programs that, at first seemed so foreign, the thought of mastering them seemed impossible. But here I am today, confident in my abilities to handle any sort of situation that may come my way. So, how did I get here? Did I just throw my hands up, walk away, and quit whenever I was stumped? Of course not. I’m an engineer. We’re problem solvers. So, for the next new engineer who comes along, I thought I’d put together a list of tips to help you get your bearings, by telling you what I did to find mine.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking… no one ever actually reads the manual, right? (After all, who hasn’t tried putting a piece of furniture together only to find some very important looking pieces leftover?) When first learning any new software, the user manuals are an invaluable resource. They tell you how everything is supposed to be used, what code will make it work, and usually have examples that will make it more clear. They were my go-to source for getting the basics down.
Now, as I say that, what happens when things aren’t working properly? There will be many times that you do something and you’ll swear you followed every step, crossed every “t” and dotted every “i”. Yet you’re still getting errors and things don’t seem to want to cooperate. What did you miss that’s preventing this from working? Sometimes, the answer is nothing. As much as we assume that the software and products we work with are perfect, everything has bugs. If you’re certain you’ve followed all of the steps correctly and you’re still struggling, customer service is the best place to go. They may be able to tell you that, the version of the software you’re using, isn’t compatible with the feature you’re trying to use or perhaps you need an additional program downloaded to make it work or maybe you need to turn some things off to allow other processes to run.
Blogs and Forums
While much less official than user manuals and customer support, I’ve found blogs and forums to be very helpful when something isn’t working exactly as I had expected. Odds are, you’re not the very first person to see whatever issue you’ve come across. With a bit of searching, you may be able to find a post similar to what you’re experiencing, and check out various solutions that other users have found worked for them.
Yes, you’re new. Your problems may seem trivial. You’re nervous about bothering everyone else with a problem you’re stumped on, only to see that it was no problem at all. Don’t be. Everyone else was new at some point too. Now, they provide hundreds of years of combined experience. So ask. In my experience at Avanceon, everyone has been incredibly willing to help me grow as an engineer and succeed in my projects. So don’t be afraid to let people know you’re struggling. You may be surprised at their willingness to help.
Wait, this sounds a lot like quitting. Didn’t I say at the beginning that this wasn’t what engineers do? As much as you might like everything to have a perfect solution, there are some things that customers want or features we think we can provide, that, after really digging in, simply can’t be done (at least not as expected). It’s important not to get stuck in one mindset, to see a plan and think that it’s the only way forward. We, as engineers, need to be constantly adapting or we risk spending so much time on something that can’t happen, that deadlines are missed and projects get derailed.
These are just a few of the things that helped me navigate through my first year on the job. Lend a hand to the next new recruit who may need some help. Share your tips and advice for those just starting out.
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