I spent a ton of my time at Hacker School learning how to ask questions (or, to put a finer point on it, learning how to not know things and admit to others that I don’t know things). The main reason that HS was so hard at first was that I wasn’t good at asking questions, at admitting when I didn’t know things, at letting myself (I feared) appear “stupid” in front of others. I was still better than some folks at pushing through this, but I wasn’t as good as I would have liked. (This is all tied into impostor syndrome, of course.)
I got vastly better at this skill as I spent more time at Hacker School. I grew more comfortable in the environment, I gained trust in the folks around me and in my own abilities, and I came to believe that my asking questions, even ones about really basic (quote-unquote-“basic”) things, was a display of intelligence rather than a display of ignorance.
What I didn’t realize about my shiny new skill of “Admitting When I Don’t Know Something and Asking Questions” was how context-dependent it is. At Hacker School, in person or on Zulip, I feel totally comfortable asking questions about “simple” things, and admitting that I’m totally in over my head with, say, troubleshooting my Virtual Machine installation and would someone please help me, and what is actually the difference between GET and POST because I never really learned it… that sort of thing. But as I prepare my application for the coming round of OPW and dive head-first into IRC chats about programs and programming styles I’ve never used before, that all seem to require strange dependencies or have to be run on X virtual machine with Y stuff built on it, I recognize a feeling from my early days of Hacker School.