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memorizing numbers

When I was a new engineer I was in awe of some experienced guys who could rattle off drawing and document numbers like it was nothing. You'd be out at an airplane, point at a switch and say "That's the schematic I need to see, how that's wired up." and he'd say "Oh it's on the 582-298347 drawing." and everyone would raise eyebrows and say "damn he is so smart we really need to keep him around!"

One issue with that is that in my new hire coaching, I've had to tell the new folks to dig deeper and not be so dependent on that experienced guy next to them who just knows everything. If they ask a question and their coworker just says the number, say "Stop. Where would be the right way for me to find that number? I want to verify that you're right because this is my drawing and it's on me if it's not right. And even if you are correct, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow and then I'd need to do this on my own. Where's the source?"

More and more, I am starting to dislike the personality types that memorize the numbers. They make new hire training harder. I also wonder if they do it because they're trying to impress somebody.

I am no longer impressed by it. Memorizing numbers is usually just a matter of working on the same product for a long time.

You know what is a rare, incredibly helpful skill that I'm impressed by? Writing some shit down. Being organized. Empowering a team around you.

That's what makes you stick out, to me. I will be impressed with anyone who shares information in a way that everyone understands, so lots of people can quickly find what they need to get all their jobs done.

I'm impressed when nobody has to memorize numbers.

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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 4th, 2017 01:16 pm (UTC)
Making a point of memorizing the numbers seems childish to me, I'll grant, but some of them just stick after a while. I may have 15724 and 17087 indelibly burned into my brain.

Our ERP tool works entirely off of numbers, and finding anything from its description is usually a bit painful because its search capability is case-sensitive and doesn't permit booleans. We've gotten used to looking for "nicorn", because we can never be sure whether it was entered as "Unicorn" or "unicorn". It has become a language thing, where Engineering speaks in descriptions and Manufacturing speaks in numbers, and we have the tools to thank for making that communication interface even harder than it has to be.

I guess I'm saying that number-remembering can be a response to tools which make it if not necessary, useful in reducing time spent and frustration.
May. 4th, 2017 06:56 pm (UTC)
If you use a number a lot, you tend to remember it. I can rattle off lots of DoD Instruction numbers, because they're things I reference all the time. The smart part isn't finding them - it's explaining what they mean and how to use them.
May. 5th, 2017 04:03 am (UTC)
Probably the only Mil Spec number I remember is MIL-TFD-41; it's pretty useful outside the military context too.
May. 4th, 2017 08:04 pm (UTC)
That is awesome. I so like what you've said here. Don't be a star; make your team into stars.
May. 5th, 2017 05:23 pm (UTC)
This! I don't work with numbers, but I do work with people who have to reinvent the wheel every few years because no-one understands the importance of a decent filing system and institutional memory.
May. 5th, 2017 06:49 pm (UTC)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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