When I first got started in this business you really had to know your stuff cold. That meant that you couldn’t rely on every possible answer to a technical question being just a Google search away. I was, just like our customers, forced to memorize a lot of pedantic technical data.
I recognize this has a sort of “get off my lawn” sort of overtone. But you know what, I’m really glad in a way. Today, it’s all too easy to rely on the Internet Crutch to answer our questions on demand. Temptation is everywhere, and for up-and-comers to high technology this represents a real problem.
This problem is especially pronounced for SEs. You only get a few hall passes per meeting where you can answer “I don’t know, let me get back to you on that” before your credibility is damaged. There is palpable pressure to know it all without coming across as a know-it-all. I think I can help you with the first part.
I recently found myself involved in a similar version of this conversation with a colleague for the nth time. It seems to come up A LOT. Every time I find myself making a similar recommendation, and goes something like:
“There’s a book I read a while ago–actually a gift from a family member–that had a really great impact on my ability to remember and recall all sorts of information I find important, especially names, acronyms, and technical data.”
At this point folks get pretty interested, mainly because I think it’s a very universal skill we all wish we were better at. The book is Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. It recounts the author’s journey from covering the World memory Championship as a journalist through his experiences becoming a participant.
It is beyond this article to cover all of the techniques discussed, but suffice it to say it spawned my reading of several other books on memory development. The key takeaway: Memorization is skill like anything else, nothing more–the implication being that anyone can learn to have a fantastic memory. It may not help you remember where you parked your car at the airport, but if you want to learn the name of all the countries of the world or remember those OSI layers, this is the place to start.
So the next time you catch a colleague trying to justify why they didn’t memorize something (instead preferring to “Google-it” as needed), please send this link, they’ll be glad you did.