Giving advice

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First thing about giving advice is that you should add a disclaimer:
“These are my experiences, views and opinions. Treat them as such and then make your own reflections on whether they’re worth taking to hear or not”

The version of me that existed a couple of years ago would not add the disclaimer. I’d just burst out my opinions as truths without blinking. Anything from advice on coding to career advice I’d lay out without giving it a second thought. That’s cool right?

Not really.

Luckily I’ve had an upgrade since then and I’ve gotten a module installed which adds perspective of other people and the ability to think outside my own personal context.
Advice given by people shouldn’t always be taken literally. You should reflect and decide whether the persons context relates in any way to your own. In the past I’ve said things like “don’t care about asking for permission, just do the work you feel is right”.
This might be great advice for some, but in a different context reading things like that just makes you more depressed. Say you work in a country with a soaring unemployment rate, you have a big mortgage and you have to support your family of five. You also happen to have a boss who’s unpredictable and fire people left and right.
If that’s your context and your  life when reading my advice, how would following my advice make any sense at all? You’ll end up unemployed and perhaps out of a steady income for months. If I was in that context, I wouldn’t give advice which clearly only works if you’re in a place of privilege.

When we give advice, we tend to forget to add the disclaimer about the advice being for a certain context. Not only when it comes to job related things, but also technology advice should come with more reflection than it usually does.

You’ve seen the blog posts. Everyone is doing X now, if you’re not on-board you’ll be professionally dead in the water in a couple of months. Those of us who’s been around a while now this to be false. Not once in my fifteen plus years in this business has something like that happened that quickly. Sure there’s a lot of new things coming out, but never is there an urgency to get on-board or perish. People are still making a living coding Flash for crying out loud! (and yes, of course there’s also the Cobol people).
When we write those excited posts, take a moment to reflect about people who aren’t as privileged that they can switch to new stuff constantly. There’s a million reasons why using some new technology isn’t possible, and that’s cool. We shouldn’t work so hard to elevate ourselves by talking down people who can’t follow all the trends. They can be just as amazing programmers as yourself. Working with legacy is so much harder than jumping on all the band wagons, we should recognize this and be a bit more careful when giving put advice.

3 thoughts on “Giving advice

  1. in regards to legacy:

    In regards to giving advice:
    I struggle with this daily, but am slowly learning to stop giving advice. Since you requested feedback, I’ll leave some inspiration that I aspire to. I hope you and your readers can find value.

    “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” – from ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’

    “Don’t just do something, stand there” – paraphrased from ‘Non Violent Communication’.

    Often the best we can do is listen, reflect and empathize. Sometimes we are even invited to give our advice.

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