Ashlee M Boyer

Dog mom to Trooper | Engineer of software | Lover of learning | Partner of Zach | She/her/hers | HOH 👂🏻

A black and white image of a young boy, eyes closed, singingly loudly into a microphone.

What it Means to Learn Out Loud

May 09, 20192 minute read

I first heard the phrase "learn out loud" from the Office Hours podcast. In this article, podcast co-host T.K. Coleman gives us three reasons to do so. I'd like to focus on the first reason he gives and show you how to apply it to the job search.

Say you're in an interview and they ask you a difficult question you're not sure of the answer to. The pressure to immediately respond and sound smart is on and it builds as the awkward silence grows between you and the interviewer. You get more and more uncomfortable and your mind goes blank. No answer is coming to mind.

It doesn't have to turn out like that. You can, and I believe most would interviewers appreciate it, think and learn out loud instead. T.K. made two key points relevant to this.

Knowing what a person knows is very different from knowing what it’s like to work with that person when they don’t know. The latter is far more important to the people who have to work with you. And since everyone has things they need to learn, it’s highly valuable when you can signal your ability to do that very thing with patience and persistence.

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When people can watch you learn, they’ll still get to see how effective you can be when you’re in the know. But more importantly, they’ll get to see how consistent and composed you can be when you have no clue.

Some days, you're going to be visiting Google and Stack Overflow dozens of times. Others, you may only need to go there once or twice. Both are fine. No sensible person is going to expect you to have every single thing about your job memorized. There's just too much information out there so we have to keep our minds tidy with only the most important bits.

Since learning is the expectation of any job, what should be important to interviewers is how someone learns, not whether or not they have every Big O notation memorized. The best way for you to showcase your learning skills is by doing so out loud. When you get a difficult question during your whiteboard pseudocode test, step through your thought process. If you get stuck, say so! Then proceed by explaining what you would do next.

What will your search terms be? Have you seen this kind of problem before? What questions would you ask a fellow teammate? Answer these questions well by doing, and your chances of impressing the interviewer are huge.


Image by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash.