April 15, 2019
How much should I be using Google as I code?
By Jay Wengrow, CEO of Actualize
Let's face it: We've all Googled for help when working on code. Whether it's Googling what an error message means, how to build a feature, or to look up proper language syntax, we've relied on Professor Google to save the day. But is this the ideal, or is it a crutch? Should we be striving to wean ourselves off Google, and does a "true" software engineer not need Google?
The reality is that Googling for help is actually the ideal. Even the most experienced software developers will use Google frequently to aid them in writing code. Of course, a senior developer will be Googling different things than an new developer, but each will rely on Google at their own level.
Most people are surprised when I say that Googling is not just okay, but preferred. So, why is it preferred?
The amount of knowledge around software development is so vast that it's impossible for any one person to know all of it. There are so many languages, frameworks, and technologies, and each of these technologies have myriads of details and nuances.
And this brings us to the main point: While other jobs may expect their practitioners to know everything they need to do their jobs, the expectation of the software engineer is that they always need to be learning new things. Even the most experienced engineer is expected to learn on the job.
So if you're to be learning on the job, what better way is there than Google? If used correctly, Google can instantaneously provide the right answer. Of course, if you can't find the answer on Google, you should use other resources such as asking others, or reading books.
Now, while Google is the tool of choice for getting the help you need, I'd add two caveats:
1. Think first. Don't let Google replace your brain. If you're not in a huge rush, try to solve the problem on your own first. Even if you fail, the help you receive from Google later will be more meaningful once you've given it a shot on your own.
2. When you do find something on Google that helps you, try to understand the solution. Instead of just copying and pasting it into your code (even if it works), try to understand why it works. This way, every solution you find on Google is not just a quick fix, but an opportunity for growth.
In sum, there's no reason to feel guilty or inadequate when you use Google. It's actually the preferred tool for getting help when you code!
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