Or maybe this post should be called “how to keep your contacts alive” or “how to build bridges instead of burn them”.
Today I had a strange thing happen. I had a question about something I wrote over three years ago come back to me. I no longer even work in the same org as when I wrote the original thing. And truthfully this thing has had a trickle of questions over the years.
The truth is in some ways I remember almost everything about what I do. But also I remember almost nothing. In that I remember very few specific details, but I remember the threads of thought that lead me to conclusions I made. The reason this matters is that the question was about a logging component I wrote and the person was asking about a performance problem. I could remember the general problems that I had solved, and the other problems that I had very little control over directly (I couldn’t control where the component was used, though I could suggest possible solutions to alter that environment).
Even though I was actually quite busy today (I’d already had 3 bug fixes waiting to be checked in, an alarm that day, was prototyped a fourth fix and was investigating a new feature) I went back, looked at the code I’d written. Asked the person a few questions and then suggested the couple of things I was aware of.
I don’t know that I’ve fixed their problem. If not, likely I’ll spend another hour or two talking them through what’s happening and seeing if we can’t get to the root of the issue. And ultimately I don’t have the ability to fix their problem once it’s fully understand since I don’t have the access needed to make the fix. But they’ll remember that even though it’s no longer “my” problem, I helped them solve their problem. I’ll have reaffirmed in their mind that not only do I care about that things I make, but that I care about them (the person). I don’t think you can ever evaluate how valuable little things like this are, but I suspect that I may be building foundations for the future just waiting to be built upon when I need them. I may never need them, or they may help me build an escape route just when I need it.
Some things never die, and while you can’t always solve everyone’s problem. At least try to show them you care that they have a problem and you’ll try to help them get to their solution as much as you reasonably can.