Are all Experienced Engineers Rude and New Engineers Obnoxious

This was written in response on Quora asking if all experienced engineers rude. In many respects, it is written as a letter to new engineers just coming out of school.

I have been producing software for many years. Most new and experienced programmers get along fine and learn from each other. There are different reasons why either group is rude to the other. I will group newbies into two groups, those who think they know it all and those who realize they do not. The experienced engineers can be broken into two groups also, the hoarders and the sharers.

For experienced engineers the hoarders are rude to everyone, they either hide as much information from others (who are either colleagues or below them in the hierarchy) as possible or give misinformation. They have put themselves into positions where their knowledge is critical to the organization’s success. In the short term, they can be very successful, but when technologies change they can find themselves in some difficulties. The sharers are the best people for newbies to get to know. The ones I know keep up with technology and freely share what they know until someone does something that may not seem totally ethical. Smart managers try to keep as many sharers as possible around, especially to train the new members of the team.

For newbies, I have had to deal with both the know-it-alls and the learners. The two toughest groups I had to deal with are the know-it-alls who really did not have the needed skills to do their job and the learners who were not able to learn what their job was and how to best do it. The know-it-alls who really did know their software development were obnoxious at first, and I was probably a bit rude to them. However, to be a true know-it-all they had to have a love for learning and would eventually know that other people can help them become better at their software development skills. These people, as long as they become sharers, usually became vital members of the team. The learners who had the fundamentals down, usually learned quickly and were willing to share their knowledge with others. These engineers also became vital members of our team.

For the teams on which I worked, the fastest way to be accepted by the experienced engineers is to both listen and contribute. You have learned some new techniques and concepts, look for ways they can contribute to the project. If your thesis was something that could help, have an informal presentation to those who would be interested.  Be involved in the code reviews of more experienced engineers code, you probably will learn many important concepts that were not taught in school but is only learned in industry. You may also be able to share some techniques that you did learn in school that would be helpful to the project. Work on overcoming stereotypes. Not all experienced engineers are rude, just like most newbies are not obnoxious. If we are on the same team, we need to work together to produce the best products we can.

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