Questions are the essence

by daniel on September 20, 2008

Lately, reading some back posts from Coding Horror, I started to review the meaning of professionalism. For many people professionalism is being the most technical capable person, and most technical is having encyclopedic knowledge on the subject. I disagree, especially for system engineering.

System design requires using many building blocks, from different schools of thought and using some imagination for mixing it all together in a system. Since there is a limit to the knowledge one person has, one must start to look for information in other professionals and to create the complete picture of the required solution.

This where the professionalism of the system engineer is shown, not by knowing the solution, but by asking the right questions!

The right questions are the ones that:

  1. seek the problems with the interfaces
  2. seek to understand how the basic principles interact
  3. try to find out the why of the answer
  4. are the most difficult to answer because they go beyond the basic assumptions
  5. ask why

Since asking those questions is something that can be learned this is the true professionalism of a system engineer.

In the words of Jeff Atwood (coding horror):

“How lasts about five years, but why is forever.”

Next post will discuss learning how to ask the right questions.

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