I've always been intrigued by nuanced differences between seemingly identical concepts. For example, design vs. architecture, training vs. education, and religion vs. spirituality to name a few. An event from my personal life is the focus of this blog, which targets seeking answers vs. seeking knowledge.

At my last job, I was on a technical team alongside traditional network engineers. Most were "expert beginners" or "meta engineers" to use a few labels coined by my friend and mentor, Russ White. These terms characterize engineers who memorize product specs and terminal commands but have little knowledge surrounding the underlying technologies. One of these engineers, a man I once held in good regard, was studying for an advanced college degree in Information Technology.

He asked me for help on a project and I was thrilled to oblige. He was using a task orchestration framework to automate the creation of virtual instances in a computing environment. His code wasn't working, and I could tell he misunderstood the intended purpose of the tool. I gave him two answers via email.

My first answer was a quick-and-dirty solution which I suggested he try first so that he could see the final deployment result. It could be implemented in less than 2 minutes and would at least let him test the remainder of his code. Once complete, I suggested a bit of refactoring to follow the correct design principles best suited for his assignment rather than shell commands. This would have required about 30 minutes of total work.

The next day, he said he wasn't interested in using the tool as intended and was going to submit the sloppy solution. Had this been a high school project, I would have understood. When you are paying big money for a post-graduate degree, I imagine you'd want to maximize the knowledge you gain while enrolled. This particular engineer was only concerned with getting the answers quickly, submitting it, then promptly forgetting everything. Ironically, we deployed this tool in our production network, but he never expressed interest in learning about it.

I was disappointed, but not upset. More importantly, I started thinking broadly about this problem of wanting answers rather than the mental toolbox needed to form your own answers. Senior engineers want to provide you thinking skills, not recital skills. Utilize us appropriately.

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