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Untrained intern; how do I get him to do problem solving on his own?

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Nageshwer Reddy

User

( 5 months ago )

For a while now, I've been having a bit of a problem with a fairly untrained intern, who does not have a huge amount of experience in programming. Early on, I told him he could ask for help, knowing I would have liked help in that position.

However, it seems like he does not go to the minimal effort of figuring out the root cause of a problem before asking. Many times, it has been the same variety of problems with the same solutions and same methods to diagnose.

We are working on a web application. I have been trying to drill basic practices in by repeating them whenever he asks a question. No matter which question he asks, I start the answer with:

  • did you read the error?
  • did you check what data is being published?
  • is that data what you expect it to be?

I've figured after enough repetition of this formula, he would know that there's no point in even asking if I am just going to guide him through it in exactly the same way (and it works for 90% of problems). However, he still consistently asks questions, often which are complete repeats of what we've done before and are easy to find on google (such as "how to merge git branch")

What would be the polite and workplace-correct way to deal with this? I simply can't be there to answer his every question, and it's not good for him in the long run either.

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Lucky Negi

User

( 5 months ago )

I think from my own experience people often ask questions like this when they lack confidence in themselves. They often know the answer but doubt themselves to the extent where they feel it's better to ask and not risk making a mistake. Does the guy often respond with things like 'of course' and 'oh yeah, you said that last week'?

I don't disagree with anyone else's answers but if this might be the case you should look at ways to boost him up a little bit rather than take him to task. I mean you say this guy is 'fairly untrained', how is it handled when he makes a mistake? Do you encourage him when he does something positive? Maybe spend ten minutes of lunch giving him a chance to chat to you about what you're working on? I think responding to his questions with one of your own might also boost his confidence. If he asks 'What does this error mean', don't get angry but just say 'what do you think it means?' If he answers correctly you have a chance to offer some encouragement and you've made him think for himself.

If he constantly asks you simple questions get him to write a crib sheet. I have one from Git when I first started and it helped me answer my own questions.

what's your interest


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