SEP has asked us to write about the tools of our trade. I’m a software engineer at a decently-sized software engineering company, so it’s pretty clear that I have several tools in my programming toolbox. Things like Sublime Text for scripting, Kaleidoscope for file diffs, Stackoverflow for Q&A and community, and even Spotify for getting in the zone.

But there’s one tool I use daily. It’s what I use to get better at my trade. It’s how I learn. The most important tool in my toolbox is curiosity. For every project I work on, I use curiosity to help answer all kinds of questions.

How should I do this?

This question comes up all the time and there are a couple of ways I could go about answering it. All of the right ways involve satisfying my curiosity. I may do a little brainstorming to come up with some ideas, or I will experiment with a few options, or I might research existing solutions to similar problems. And through this process, I learn.

Is there a better way to do this?

Something else that often comes up in my work is the discovery of some truly unsightly code, poorly designed architecture, or other equally cringe-worthy work. Sometimes I find it in an existing codebase. Sometimes I realize that I have been doing things very, very wrong. In these cases, the way I answer my question of how to improve it is to ask coworkers, fellow engineers, or even the internet. I describe what I’m seeing and I try my best to describe what I think should happen. The answer often comes in the form of friendly advice or through experimentation. And however I find my answer, I learn from it.

What’s so great about this?

I hear about new technologies and methodologies all the time. Sometimes I just don’t get them. But I hear about how great they are, so my curiosity kicks in. I ask about the cool new thing. I research it. I try it out. And then I learn.

Curiosity brings all of these questions to my mind as I work. When I satisfy that curiosity, I learn. And that’s how I become a better engineer. How does curiosity help you in your day-to-day work?

This post is part of a weekly “Blog Bloc” at my place of work. Each week, a title is chosen for the those who want to participate. The bloggers get to interpret the title however they wish. Our topic this week is “The Possibilities are Endless.” See my post on the company blog.