Hey, I'm Miguel

Saying 'I Don't Know' as a Software Developer

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August 26, 2022

Let’s face it, we’re not gods even though we sometimes feel like it when we’ve been coding for 16 hours straight and just built the most fantastic button that the client wants… of course, it would actually take about16 seconds to create a button and a full minute to style it the way the client asked; but you get the idea.

We work on some really cool shit every day and encounter hurdles and problems along the way. Browser compatibility, library version out of date, race conditions, leaks in your state management, etc. We will spend agonizing hours, days, or weeks trying to solve these issues and will tell the client or management that it can’t be done… not with the current application. You fear telling them that you don’t know how to solve it and chalk it up to the current technology so that you don’t look incompetent.

Hey! It’s okay to say “I don’t know.” It’s actually fine to not know everything. I’ve been saying it now for a long time and I follow it up like this, “I don’t know, but let me find out and get back to you.”

You just need time to research, find a solution, and estimate how long it’ll take to implement.

Oftentimes, you’ll find that whatever you’re trying to build hasn’t been done before. That’s cool and I let the client know that. I tell people that anything can be built; it just takes time.

That’s it. No crazy stories of when this happened to me and how I overcame it. You will experience these requests/moments/problems and just won’t know how to solve them. You’ll research how and implement it. It just takes time.