All experience matters


I wanted to write down my thoughts about “experience” as it is something that I have been thinking about over the last couple of months.

Now that I’m working more closely with colleagues of varying degrees of seniority, I have noticed how the team’s dynamics fluctuate back and forth, with each person bringing something different to the table. For example, I have been working at our company for longer and have a better understanding of our software, allowing me to provide insight on why things are the way they are, bugs we’ve fixed and features we’ve added. On the other hand, my colleagues who have been Software Engineers for longer than I have likely faced and solved more problems than I have, providing them with a broader understanding over time.

We all have things to offer. I have my experience. They have their experience. Together as a team, we have our experience. Only by sharing between us can we move from mine and theirs to ours. I seek out my colleagues to learn from lessons they’ve learnt, weird things they’ve seen and anything in between, and they come to me for the same reasons. The only difference is that we have different experiences to share between us.

If we all had the same experiences, then the benefit of working in teams would be severely harmed. Teams work well when they are diverse in background and expertise. Whether this is software related or not, it is crucial.

Please go out and spread your experience to your team and let them do the same for you.

Now, I think some readers might think, “why should I listen to someone with less experience than me” which isn’t necessarily a completely wrong point of view. Information given to you could indeed be incorrect, but that’s a problem you have wherever you go. Reading from StackOverflow or even from documentation directly can all have mistakes in them. You have to trust something. Therefore you should trust that your teammates are probably correct if they have the confidence to share their knowledge with you. You can always go back and corroborate what they shared later, which is perhaps a good idea in general when hearing something for the first time.

The main point is not to discount what others have to say before they’ve even said anything.

You are also more likely to believe someone the more that you trust them. I think that goes without saying. The more you work alongside your teammates, the amount of trust between you will increase as assumed knowledge can become proven. A lack of opportunities to demonstrate expertise has possibly lead to people assuming that more senior workers are more skilled by correlating time with experience (they are related, but time doesn’t directly lead to understanding). It seems safer to assume that people who have been doing something for longer know more than others. However, experience can be gained at different rates and is altered by the complexity and demands of problems faced throughout one’s career.

I personally take the point of view that I trust what others say unless my own experiences contradict theirs. When we have a different perspective on how something works, we now have a unique opportunity to discuss it. One, both or neither of us might be wrong or right. We now have the chance to figure out which category we fit in, hopefully coming out with better collective knowledge than we had going in.

I’m not really sure where I’m trying to go with this, but hopefully, I’ve said something that resonates with you or will promote change in your behaviour. By listening and trusting our colleagues, we can build a more inclusive workplace where everyone feels comfortable sharing their experience and helping others. I’m not trying to preach to you, but this does seem to be an area where we are failing, and by raising awareness of the current shortcomings, we open up the opportunity to address them.

Written by Dan Newton