Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Information Overload

I know that I'm suffering from information overload when my head hurts, my visions get blurred and no matter what I do my mind refuses to understand a thing. I really hate experiencing this because aside from the headache it brings it makes me feel mentally incompetent. This usually happens when I cram for something I'm not good at. That's why remembering my schooling years I would always try to study in advance and get enough consultation if needed especially if I'm faced with my weakest subjects. It's either I know the subject too well that I don't study or I study boggling subjects only during night time. I never ever study in the mornings of the same day in which I have to efficiently apply what I've learned. I know some people can do this, but not me. I've accidentally tried it once when I forgot to study for a chemistry test and had to cram that morning, but I would have to stress the point that I failed on that test miserably.
That's what I felt today. Although I'm not talking about failing (yet), but I'm talking about surrendering to information overload.

Recently I was informed that I will be joining a special task force at work. I was pulled out from my normal operations to join a special team that would work on a bankwide project that involves the global big guys, which starts with a capital A, Auditors. It is bankwide, which means the scope is so big and so global that there are lots of data, information and strategies to be considered. Also, since the project was kicked off to appease the Auditors, there's a grave understanding that the outcome of the project could make or break the bank in some way. And since the gravity is that global and that serious, there's a pressing need for us to solve it ASAP.

The first round of meetings were done a few days ago and we've been talking to analysts all over the world. From the sound of their voices, they need help and we are tasked to do lots of things that we need to deliver efficiently. It was clear that we are following a strict time line and efficiency is an understatement. As our special team was identified to take on the project, we were given separate responsibilities immediately. But collectively our main responsibility is to investigate, analyze and clean up a global data that comes from major reports across a giant Datawarehouse. This immediately demanded us to know all about the datawarehouse, know about the reports and most especially know about the data that serve as 'meat' in the reports. But the problem is, I'm not familiar with the mentioned datawarehouse, reports and data.

The datawarehouse that we will be working on is something alien to me. The financial processes and intensive bank concentrated subjects are very far from the usual process and tasks that I normally enhance or do. The reports are fresh to me, and most importantly I would be working with different analysts all over, which means getting to know new contacts and new business partners. Everything is new.

Actually, I really don't mind that everything is new or at this rate I'm not knowledgeable with the entire project. I've never been scared of challenges, in fact I get intrigued. As long as I'll be given an appropriate time to study and to personally work on it hands on, then everything will pull through. But sadly, time is not in our hands and I would have to make the best out of it and dive in the dark.
Half of my day today was spent in a conference room with 6 other analysts who are managing their own set of datawarehouses. As far as we're concerned this project is fairly new to us. Although I have to mention that some senior analysts can easily tie up their own warehouse and processes because of their seniority to the bank, to the data quality requirements and to datawarehouse manipulation. The financial terms and technical sides are quite easy for them to understand leaving only areas of complexity in finding strategies of execution, but unfortunately, I'm fairly new to the global complexity of this financial corporation. I'm fairly new to everything. Datawarehouse and technical stuff are something that I don't fear, but I admit I should be given enough time to study and go through on my own.

But since the project is prioritized, the pace of "training" will be fast. I sat through the first half of the session understanding bits and pieces of it, facing handouts, viewing various reports, listening to financial jargons and taking up notes in the process. During the first half, I was happily joining the ride, but on the latter half my head started to hurt.

I looked at the reports and kept listening to the facilitator, but I felt nothing was coming into my head anymore. I tried to force it and tried to recount the things that I learned on the first half, but the more I get boggled and tried to understand, the more my head hurt. It came to a point that I was staring at the overhead screen while listening to the drone of the facilitator's voice, which came n and out of my ear. I tried to relax for a bit and looked as if I'm not frustrated, but I knew right then that all the reports, the data, the jargons and processes soaked my brain big time. I was in denial.

I looked at the analysts and some of them either knew what was going on or was just like me thinking of how they are going to pull this off. But it's also highly probable that I'm the only one going through a weird time. Also it's frustrating and discouraging to think that I've already reached my limit.

But the one seated beside me, who is known to be a brainiac analyst, faced me with droopy eyes and said. "I'm on information overload and my head hurts." I exhaled. So I guess it was not only me. I'm not entirely happy that we couldn't fully grasp it at that point, but I guess the consolation is that I'm not alone.

After the meeting, I went out of the conference room and felt that I could breathe again. The wide open space of the office floor quickly eased me. I felt the conference room suffocated me. And so, I went on to answer a couple of emails and tried to resume accomplishing my normal workload. I tried to defrost my mind by doing normally paced things. I kept my notes and documents from the meeting away. I vowed that I will start to look at it first thing tomorrow morning when my mind is fresh and rested. I have to recover.

I admit this thing frustrates me, but I have to accept the fact that no matter how powerful the brain is, it's not highly permeable as we would expect it to be. Unless I'm Dr. Reeds of Fantastic Four, my mind can only take so much at a given time and at a given intensity. I get through with my belief in myself and giving my mind ample time to properly absorb information. I also know my mind too well. I know when to stretch it and I know the time when I have to back off and give it a rest.

Information overload, I believe, only hurts when you don't acknowledge it.

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