By Nathan L. Walls

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Beginner questions

I recently started a new job. That means new faces, different practices, and lots of new-to-me long-running code. It means a new business domain.

In the past, I’ve approached situations like this and asked what I’ve self-deprecatingly described as, “dumb questions.”

Except, there are no dumb questions.

There are particularly no dumb questions when you’re beginning. Whenever you’re new at a job, new with a programming language, new with a framework, new with a codebase, new with a business domain, new with a team, you’re beginning.

When you’re beginning, you ask beginner questions. Beginner questions aren’t dumb. They are the questions anyone in a situation similar to the one you’re in might ask. They may just be the questions that everyone who is new should ask and might not have thought of. I suspect there’s probably at least one person on your new team who also doesn’t know the answer to your beginner question. They’ll also benefit from hearing the answer.

Effectiveness and expertise is contextual and asking questions is a great way to accelerate understanding and thereby building that effectiveness and expertise.

Remember, you’re asking beginner questions, not dumb questions.