DEV Community

Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

Posted on

Are you a "fast learner"?

How quickly do you pick up on new info? What kind of things come quickly to you and what takes time?

Does it matter?

Top comments (24)

colinmtech profile image
Colin Morgan

Fast learner, even faster forgetter.

aurelkurtula profile image
aurel kurtula

No, I'm a slow learner.

I love it though.

I try to understand exactly why things work.

I was introduced to programming when I went to uni to study "anything to do with computers". I remember in the first coding class the professor gave us a booklet where he had basically written a set of tutorials, going from hello world to building a calculator in php - yep that's what £4k a year gives you.

I see all these variables and I think I know how they work but I wanted to be sure. So I read the code, think that I get it and to test my knowledge I change all the variable names (adding $aurel to all of them). Just to get it through my head what exactly the proff made up and what was the language.

Of course I made a mess of it. Put my hand up, the professor came over.

Others had put their hand up before me and the professor's "solution" was quick - only he knows how long he had not bothered to change that booklet.

As he's coming he's smiling. Hovers over, knowing full well that he'll get it quick. He looks at my code and gets annoyed. I honestly don't know why, each variable was exactly the same just with my name in front.

They say those that can't do teach. If he could code he would have been able to debug my few lines of code :)

He gave up. I promise, no lie, I found the error and it was a semicolon or something like that. So it was the same banal error that others had made.

I left that workshop feeling amazing. And now every time I'm learning something new, I take the same approach. Where by I try to brake what I do not know.

The down side is that I never finish the product a given course/tutorial promises by the end.

I find all this sh*t fun. Too fun to rush :)

kbariotis profile image
Kostas Bariotis • Edited

Fast "dirty" learner here. Usually, an unknown subject for me consists of branches and of course those branches consist of more branches. Like a tree.

When the majority of those branches are unknown too, I tend to learn fast but dirty, meaning that I still have big questions on my head that I put aside and continue with the most obvious and confident path at the time.

On the other hand, when the majority of those branches are known or I have been exploring them in the past, the solution tends to come more naturally.

Have you ever had a moment where you were looking for an answer and suddenly remembered an article you where reading a few months ago but you couldn't exactly "get" it. And then, when you had all the pieces, suddenly you had the "aha!" moment.

And no, when you will be confident of your self, it won't really matter. Till then, continue down the path of curiosity.

nicolasnarvaez profile image
Nicolás Narváez

I do the same here _, but i also want to mention the repetition in cs concepts, while i build the branches i make a mnemonic based on previous knowledge that comes intuitive and is relatable. I also think in images constantly so the mnemonics tend to associate to the tree relative branch distribution in space, and sometimes colours, like, more mathematical conceps are blue, rapid changing or granular elements are more orange, etc, so que concatenation of the colours and distance creates a more unique identifier for the concept _^

bladefidz profile image
Hafidz Jazuli Luthfi

That is greatest post I have read today.
Thank you for sharing.


dance2die profile image
Sung M. Kim • Edited

I can't confine myself as either a fast or slow learner.

Everything depends on what data you are trying to pick up and reorganize them into information.

What kind of things come quickly to you and what takes time?

As an example, I can pick up useless gossips (data) and turn them into stories (information). But I am pretty bad at turning numbers (data) into patterns (information).

So that means, I could be a better writer than a mathematician.

Does it matter?

I believe that it does. I am more comfortable with books that tells stories (practical) than ones that throw theories (academic) at you.

So I say, find which ever way works better for you and stick with it.

dellward profile image
Dell Ward

I'm extremely slow because I always feel the need understand every bit information on day one. I also tend to branch off to other concepts that only support what I'm supposed to learn. For instance If I'm learning react and the medium I'm learning from mentions redux, I would stop what I'm doing to Google Redux.

elijahlynn profile image
Elijah Lynn

That's what I do too, but, the payoff in the long run is pretty huge! I'm getting faster and faster at overcoming blockers and learning new tech. Keep doing that, it pays off!

dellward profile image
Dell Ward

Thanks! I guess I'm impatient as well lol 🤔

craser profile image
Chris Raser

I can only go by my experiences in college, and the times in my professional life when I've been among several people all learning the same new thing.

Invariably, I'm somewhere in the middle, and to be blunt: I blame bad docs. I'm a visual/kinesthetic learner. To really internalize something, I need to see it (at least in my mind) as some kind of visual relationship diagram, and I need to work with it a little bit. So my usual learning flow is:

  • Read the docs. (Alas, usually just piled paragraphs barfed onto an HTML doc somewhere.)
  • Sketch out the "boxes & arrows" diagrams as I read.
  • Build something to make sure my diagrams are right, and to cement in my mind how the thing works.

So I tend to be about 15% slower than team members/classmates who can just sit and read the code/docs and fully digest the information from that.

But I also find that while I'm not as fast, I often spot things (because my learning process involves hands-on work) that get missed by others. (Sometimes the docs don't match reality...) So if you hand the class new docs on Monday, then on Tuesday it'll look like I'm behind, but on Wednesday I'll be caught up, and Thursday I'm with the other "fast learners" at the head of the class.

I honestly think that better overview information, and with component/data flow relationships presented visually, would help everyone, as it provides a much-needed cross-check that guards against ambiguous wording or misunderstanding in the docs.

But I've also learned to fake being a really fast learner. :)

I've worked for enough really demanding employers that I can grab something new, learn enough to get going, and pick up what I need as I move forward. The end results work solidly, have good test coverage, and I'm fully ready to refactor/rebuild as new features get added, so they're "technical debt" in the classic sense: I intentionally trade quality/elegance for faster delivery, everything has solid test coverage, and I have a plan to repay that debt if/when appropriate.

willamesoares profile image
Will Soares

I consider myself a "fast learner" and I believe that for me this is a good and a bad thing to have as a skill. The good thing is that, as I work in an agency-like company, I keep moving from project to project and end up working with lots of tools, architectures, and standards. I am able to get used to a new stack really quick. However, I feel like when I get used to some tool or language and feel comfortable with that, especially when that occurs quickly, I stop looking to improve my skills on that, which is somehow a dangerous behavior. I end up with limited knowledge on a big myriad of tools and no deep understanding on any of them.

Thinking about that now, I'm not sure whether that behavior is really a consequence of me being a "fast learner" or not. I know it is somehow related but I don't know to what extent.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Myself I'd say I'm a pretty slow learner. I'm quick to find patterns and apply the knowledge I do have astutely to new situations, but I can't say I'm a particularly fast learner.

belhassen07 profile image
Belhassen Chelbi • Edited

I'm a slow one, I understand a concept like a really slow windows xp loading, sometimes it gets stuck.
does it matter? well, I don't think so because this is how our brains work, your subconscious need some time to work it out while you're distracting yourself (practicing sports or something..) and sometimes you just don't get something , then suddenly you get it, how? I dunno xD

bladefidz profile image
Hafidz Jazuli Luthfi

About one year ago, I though what you say as joke as description of myself. I just keep asking to myself why I just can not build a web application completely by myself: Code javascript, css, HTML, PHP, implement some framework, testing, UI, UX, designing database, and code SQL while some people younger than me who graduated from some local vocational school can do that easily.

But, recently I got a revelation. Why not just transfer what we already knew and what our objective into an algorithm. So this algorithm may be looking some appropriate libraries on the Github based on our goal: Make a summary of each library, asking to us it is good or not, if yes then download it as part of building stack. This algorithm can also find the appropriate application design by implementing meta search engine, such as grab HTML design from popular website based on our design goal. Then, it will generate some possible HTML and CSS design, offer to us which the best design to use.

Hahaha, that idea may seems too vague.

rjpsyco009 profile image
Ryan Norton

Depends on how much I've got going on and what I'm learning.
I learned to weld at my current job on site, and almost didn't catch on in time.
Programming through my college courses proved to teach me quickly. It was something I am passionate about,and not something I just know I have to do.
So..... Maybe fast?

wintermute21 profile image
John Best

No, but I prefer to learn something thoroughly than get caught off guard by what I don't know. I can learn the basics of a new framework in a few weeks, but going in depth with something always takes time.

mortoray profile image
edA‑qa mort‑ora‑y

Yes, I'd consider myself a fast learner. I quickly pick up on abstractions and patterns, which is quite helpful for programming.

thomaswdmelville profile image
Thomas Melville

Just reading something won't stick in my head so I follow a simple process.
Read, write, revisit at the end of the day and again at the end of the week.
Works for me :-)
I also started a new habit in late 2016. Start every day with a bit of learning. I spend the first 30-60 minutes in work learning something. Currently I'm doing the Linux essential system administration course from the Linux foundation.

guitarkat profile image

I live off of patterns that I see. Sometimes it gets me right in the right place... and sometimes it's too convoluted for me to "see". I've been getting good at simply observing things. Experimentation is also a big thing with me.

If you go too deep, I'll be lost. But I ask why to each pattern to get to the bottom. I learn certain aspects that seems to influence outcomes or reasons why it may occur... but I keep asking why.

I am a fast learner also because I read a lot. Research and reading is probably my biggest strength. I can also translate requirements either for people using stuff or technical. I see lots of different things but when I'm lost... I am very lost.

It sounds wierd but I don't know how else to explain it.