Answer Questions with Graciousness

Early in my career I had a question, and was answered with graciousness. It shaped how I respond when being asked a question.

Early in my software development career, in like 2005, I was working at a mortgage software company. I believe it was 100-150 employees. I was a lowly contractor. I was working on a deployment of their software for a specific client, applying branding and customizations. It was a bit of a mess and the work I did ended up being sidelined until after my contract ended. So it was a bust. They had offered me a job full time in VB 6, which I was not going to do, so I became fun-employed for a bit :)

Anyway, one day I was in a meeting with a bunch of people, including the co-founder of the company, who's first initial of his last name was one of the letters in the three letters that the company was named. The company was GHR but I forget which one he was, but he was one of them.

There was software talk and mortgage talk happening in the meeting. One thing came up that confused me, but only me I think. I, being a contractor, didn't really have a stable ground for purchasing a house, and I was living with my brother at the time. So I had no experience with any end of the mortgage pipeline. So I was mortgage dumb. But everyone else had been working there for a while, probably had to get some mortgage education, but not us contractors who weren't selected for our mortgage software experience.

So I asked the dumb question which everyone knew the answer to. And to my surprise, the co-founder of the company explained it to me. And he did it in an educating and non-condescending way that struck me to this day, almost 20 years later.

In my specific role currently, I am the owner of software that has very specific business logic. And if someone needs to know something, and they ask me, I will always answer with grace. This should be the case anyway, but I was a cocky young developer who was, in my defense, pretty smart :)  But not knowing something is not a thing done in an attempt to annoy someone.

However, if I feel someone should know something (which is something I'm working on with little success), there might be a bit of brevity in my response. And nothing is really stopping me from judging dumb questions still :D  But I will continue to work on it, to some degree...

Anyway, answering questions with grace and sans-condescension should be the case, but I don't know for sure if I would make that the case for me without the experience of asking a dumb question and the co-founder answering me with patience and grace.

Happy coding!

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