In the ever-evolving world of software engineering and technology, staying up-to-date with the latest tools, terms, and concepts can be challenging. However, a simple principle has helped many professionals, including myself, rapidly advance their careers over the years. This principle is all about looking up things you don't know and building a knowledge base that will help you tackle problems efficiently.

Identifying the Unknown

The first step in this process is to realize and identify the things you don't know. As you work on different projects and collaborate with other professionals, you'll inevitably come across unfamiliar terms, tools, or concepts. Recognizing these unknowns is essential, as it allows you to focus on filling the gaps in your knowledge.

Example: Yesterday I was listening to a Rust podcast, and the term "CRDT" came up, so I looked it up... It's a "Conflict Free Replicated Data Type, it refers to a family of structures that know how to merge without conflicts". Cool right? Maybe I'll find a use for that some time.

Commit to Learning

Once you've identified something you don't know, make a commitment to look it up. You don't need to dive deep into the subject matter at this stage. Instead, focus on understanding the basics by answering two main questions: "What is it?" and "What is it used for?" This way, you'll get a general idea of the topic without feeling overwhelmed.

Building a Repository of Knowledge

As you continue to look up unfamiliar concepts, you'll gradually build a vast list of ideas and knowledge. This repository will serve as a powerful resource, enabling you to instantly recognize potential solutions to problems you encounter. Once you've identified an approach, you can then do a deep dive to learn more about the topic and apply it to your work.

The Long-Term Benefits

By consistently following this simple principle, you'll develop a strong foundation in various software engineering and technology concepts. This will help you stay ahead in the rapidly changing landscape and position you as a valuable asset in your team or organization.

Over the past 20 years, I've personally used this technique to advance my career, and I cannot recommend it enough. It's an easy, effective way to keep learning and growing in a fast-paced industry. So, the next time you come across something you don't know, remember to look it up, learn about it, and add it to your knowledge repository. Your future self will thank you!