As someone who pivoted early career from educational non profits to the tech for profit industry, I know what it is like to feel intimidated by being new. It can be really tough to ramp up on a new team, or project, or job. Further, a lot of us work in contexts in which the path forward on a project is ambiguous, with little or inconsistent framework. It is likely you will encounter this experience at some point in your career, if not, quite frequently. This post will give some advice on how to just put something out there, especially in the context of a new team or project.
Ask TONS of questions. Seriously, I have asked, in hindsight, some of the silliest questions, or questions with obvious replies. I have no shame when it comes to asking questions and having an eternal thirst for understanding. To pave a path forward, it is a really good idea to understand your surroundings. When diving into something new, it will not take long before you recognize and know subject matter experts, or even find yourself becoming one by simply being curious and asking questions.
Chat through concepts and ideas. Have multiple potential solutions in your head to solve problems. Pitch them to colleagues, gather feedback, and quickly reiterate the options. Weigh the pros and cons of each option on the table. Sometimes politics play into which option becomes the solution. In an case, find colleagues on your team or project that you trust to bounce and share your ideas with–it will make your work all that much better in the long run and provide perspective of which you have not thought.
Think about questions you will be asked. What are the risks of this solution? What are the rewards? What is the impact? What is the easiest option or solution to the problem you are facing? What is the best option? Sometimes we are lucky and these things intersect. Sometimes we end up using ideas from multiple solutions. What are the timelines on the solutions? Pay attention when others ask you questions. If you do not have the answer in hand, be honest. Name that you maybe have not thought of everything, but that you will investigate and find an answer quickly.
Put it out there–what is the worst that can happen? You get some valuable feedback and have to reiterate again? Oh no, I have to strengthen the solution, what terrible news! It sounds silly when stated like this. We all have this image of ourselves being publicly shamed by putting together a terrible project or solution. The simple fact is that if you follow the advice outlined above, chances are you are going to have some fairly great knowledge about the project or team or problem, be a subject matter expert yourself, and have some pretty clever solutions in your pocket that will address the problems at hand. The truth is most people will not shame you or criticize you for this. Most will praise you.
The folks that forge ahead intelligently and sensibly on ambiguous projects and team, these are the folks that become the most trusted members, the leaders (even if the title is not there). While they may seem fearless, the simple fact is that most of these folks, the competent ones anyways, have simply trained themselves on all the ins and outs of the project, its problems, and have been the spearhead on designing solutions. When I am in this position, I still get the nervous energy, I simply know I have not and cannot think of everything. BUT, I know that I have been following the advice of this post, and that I will keep grinding so that I can just put something out there. If folks like my solutions, they can take. If not, they can send it right back, but I am going to use this an an opportunity to integrate feedback for a stronger solution. You should, too.