Problems and WD40

About solving problems, kind of...

There are two easy ways to solve problems: Read the error message & WD40

I was only half joking when I wrote such a thing. It has been a long time since I chatted about tech and so on. I am still a software engineer, getting closer to what they call a staff engineer nowadays. Basically means I have a better pay and I write more than I code. But it also means I am an example to some more junior engineers on my team.

I like to mentor, but not in the usual sense of the way. You can probably say I mentor a bit like Yoda. I have cryptic advices they should take. Or not. Rules are meant to be broken to allow you to find your own path. I often start by saying that I am not much different to them except I have a few tricks in my sleeves to help me navigate the trouble waters.

One of those is that I can read and find reasons in cryptic error messages. This is one of the most important thing for me. Even if someone comes your way telling you the problem is X, starts from the error message and get to your own conclusions. Approach this with a beginner’s mind.

This is what I did on the most recent incident I was on. I had my ideas about the problem, so I asked simple stupid questions. Then I asked about the error message. And that is when it became clear that I approached the issue the wrong way. I forgot to start from scratch and had my bagage with me. Once I rebooted, read the message. It became easy to find the link between this and real parts of that codebase. Then the problem was solved.

So, yeah … read the error message.