Out of My Depth

intellij.png “What’s the difference between a string and a String?” I asked on the first day of my engineering internship at a startup. That comment drew some sighs from the other engineers in the cube. The pit in my stomach confirmed what I already knew - I was out of my depth.

I had never programmed in Java before that day. And there I was, a Java engineering intern at this startup. Over the next few months, I imbibed as much as I could about object oriented programming and servlets and Struts and Tomcat and Apache and databases as I could. Boy, were those engineers patient with me. They were saints.

By the end of the summer, thanks to the countless hours of help and explanation from the team, I was a productive, more confident engineer and helped ship a few (insignificant) features.

But I’ll never forget that feeling of being completely lost or the gratitude I felt for the engineers who coached, encouraged and explained.

We are all novices at some point whether it’s the first time we fire up an IDE and write Java code, utter a hello during our first sales call, or autograph the incorporation documents for the first startup.

Mustering the will to push through the doubt and the fear takes determination and diligence. But more so, it requires asking for help and enlisting allies in a shared cause.

Those engineers helped me understand the idea of succeeding together. By investing in my success, they were equipping me to invest in theirs. And ultimately, that’s what teamwork is all about.

Do you have any stories about being out of your depth? Share them on this branch.

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25 April 2013

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