If you know me, you know it is in my nature to help. Whether it’s helping a friend move, helping with a technical issue or offering a shoulder to lean on, I am there. I’m usually one of those “go to” kind of guys when you need that helping hand. I find helping, in any context, to be very gratifying.
As a speaker, I often try to get people to start speaking. It can be rewarding, both personally and professionally. On more than one occasion, I have heard the excuse to not speak as “I have nothing to say that hasn’t already been said”. I will often disagree and argue that your story, regardless of the topic, is worth being told. Whether this is through a presentation or a blog post, get out there and let it be heard.
I think that this excuse also holds true for helping others in the SQL community. I think sometimes people do not want to help out because of the following reasons
- They don’t think they are qualified
- They do not want to get involved with some else’s problem
- They might be wrong
Let’s look at all three of those.
Not Qualified to answer. Face it, we are not heart surgeons and we have no place being in the operating room helping perform surgery. That’s not what we, as IT professionals, do on a daily basis. You are, however, more than qualified to help out other IT professionals since they are doing the same type of work. If I had to guess, even heart surgeons seek out advice of their peers to solve problems and make themselves better surgeons. Take ownership of your skills and offer to at least listen to others that might be having problems. If you have a thought about their particular problem, offer it up. Let them decide whether or not to take your advice.
Getting involved with someone’s problem. This can be tricky one to overcome, especially over the internet. Yes, helping out means that you have to get involved and potentially get your hands dirty. Knowing when to jump in and help can be tough and sometimes there are even individuals that are difficult to help. You will likely run across a few here and there. However, there isn’t anything wrong with saying to them, “I can’t help you any further, reach out to so-and-so consulting and they can help”. This allows them to find other avenues of help. Know when you have reached your limit and when you do, communicate that.
Being wrong. I’ll be honest. I’m wrong from time to time. I do not shy away from it rather, I own up to it. If I’m wrong in a public forum, I will usually say “I stand corrected and thanks to Billy Bob for setting me straight”. There is absolutely nothing wrong in being wrong. If you make a mistake, own up to it, learn from it, and move on. The world will not stop if you are wrong. The sun will rise in the morning and new problems will appear.
Being the Expert
I rarely claim that I am an expert in anything. I am always striving to learn new things in all facets of life. I am a firm believer that there is always more than one way to skin a cat. I find that this is especially true when it comes to SQL Server.
When you are helping others you must keep this in mind. They, or others that might be helping, might not know of a preferred way to accomplish something. I believe that it is our job to educate not only the individual asking for help but any others that might be involved as well.
We should also strive to do this in a professional manner. We should not call them out, regardless of the medium, for their lack of knowledge or for the advice that they give. We should rather applaud them for trying to help others. We certainly can tell them that they are wrong. However, we must provide the reasons behind their incorrect advice so that they too will learn from the experience.
Whether you are giving a presentation or helping others on some technical forum, helping can be very rewarding. I assure you that you have the knowledge, skills, and drive to help others.
If you’re the expert, take a moment to remember that we are all here for the same reason.
Note: No cats were harmed in writing this blog post