Don’t be ashamed of your ignorance of “common” knowledge in IT

This article is targeted towards IT professionals with less than 2 years of experience. After a few years in the industry here are some tips I would give folks starting on this journey.

It is better to admit that you don’t know and educate yourself than to assume you know and mislead yourself or someone. Always be open to learning something new, doing your research, and learning on your own.

Personally, this year has been humbling as I have been involved in various projects that are not strictly in my data engineering domain. I am not ashamed to say that I didn’t really know the meaning of API, SDK, proxy, CNAME, DNS, port, Public IP versus Private IP, etc. I know for some people it would sound like it should be “common” knowledge, but it is not the case and I know that I am not alone.

Have you ever been in a meeting, where you feel dumb because everyone seems to be using terms and talking about technology tools that you may not have worked with or understand? Normally, we tend to follow along and try to rely on the contextual knowledge we gain from those meetings. We subsequently, come up with our own “contextual intuitive” meaning of the term or tool, use it and consequently explain it to others without ever knowing what we are talking about. I argue that this is the wrong approach to learning. Firstly, we should realize that not everyone that uses a term knows what they are talking about, so please don’t feel alone. Secondly, don’t rely on the contextual meaning that you just understood from the meeting, since there is a high chance the person that you were listening to might be wrong. However, we should always seek to understand terms or concepts at such a fundamental level that we can even explain it to a 5-year-old.

I urge people to speak up in meetings and highlight their limited knowledge honestly, by telling your teammates or business clients that you might need some time to do your research. If we can start this culture, especially if done by the most senior IT professionals, the junior ones will feel comfortable when applicable. Alternatively, one can defer a response with the common phrase “I will get back to you”, then take some time to give a detailed response. No one should feel like they should know everything because they are considered an IT “expert” with over 10 years of experience.

Personally, I find YouTube videos very helpful in explaining certain “common” concepts that I don’t understand. Therefore, please don’t be ashamed of your ignorance if you are humble enough to seek knowledge and learn. You will have an amazing IT career.