Learning new things
28 Sep 2022 / 10 minutes to read
Computer Science (CS) students often approach me about finding their way. CS is a broad field building on the fundamentals of logic, linear algebra, statistics, linguistics, systems design, and just you name it. Generally, when we create a software product, we need to learn about the application domain and the knowledge required to build the software. And, passing college or university exams is not enough. Sadly, nobody can find your own way or answer all your questions. Even the most brilliant professor in the World cannot know everything. We often feel lost, including me, because we are overwhelmed and feel stressed out trying to learn everything in CS.
In my opinion, it is impossible. Believe me, your mission is impossible. You cannot learn everything related to CS, coding, Data Science, and AI. Yes, just believe me and accept it. It is not a failure. It is a strategy to keep going and enjoy your process of learning what you like, finding your specialization, and finding things that are the most important for you. Herein I will share my approach to learning the things I like. It is not an instruction or algorithm. You might find your own approach, or use my ideas for dealing with anxiety and going into an exciting adventure of coding/engining, and possibly, web design of you prefer :) You can also read my other post on Minimalism in Coding and Design with some related ideas focusing on the most critical skills or design elements.
I am learning new things
Please note that this post is based on my life experience, and you will have your own adventure while learning new things in CS. You cannot expect to have a magic way of enlightenment and one day awake as the best coder in your city, country, or planet. You will have some pain on your way. This pain will help you to respect yourself and other professionals. You will not think somebody “is lucky.” You will work on your skills instead. Should you not succeed or get tired, you can always start growing cabbage :)
Sorry, but really, how can I become a coder? Where to start? Please help me. There is so much to learn! No panic, please. You have really gone a long way. All your life, you will devote yourself to CS mastery. It is OK. Actually, you do not need to know every tool or programming language. To learn coding, you can start with one programming language. I advise you to first learn an interpreted programming language, such as Python. Compared to the compiled programming language such as C, Python code is run in the virtual machine and does not need to be built and linked. Read on interpreted and compiled programming languages, and that they can also be both compiled and interpreted at the freecodecamp.org.
Choosing tools, watching trends
Should you be interested in programming languages and how they trend, you can use Google. It is interesting to observe how people’s interest is changing in programming languages. This shows that you cannot be sure that you will stay with a chosen programming language or tool for a lifetime. What you have to learn is problem-solving and coding patterns in general, this way you will be able to seamlessly change to another language or frameworks very quickly.
Do you see how the search for Python programming language has dominated the World over the past 5 years? You can easily find the locations with the most significant interest in Python and the related queries (not shown in this screenshot), including the most popular “google colab.”
I like the Google Colab myself for running quick experiments, especially when I need access to TPU computations so helpful in my deep learning experiments!
Finding your way
It is reassuring to go to a coding course or do your BSc in CS to start learning to code, right? In reality, no school or advanced tutoring will give you everything to code mastery. You will actually feel lost. You will seek answers, ask, and demand help. But there is only one way, which is to just jump into the water of coding and learn swimming :) You can start with simple projects, and code a game, sorting algorithm, or application. You need a pet project. Without it, you will just be limited to your courses and will not learn your way of thinking and solving problems.
You will realise that your coding problems have many solutions and sometimes require not only programming skills but also creativity. You will start creating your own products, tools and have fun. Nowadays, coding is very social. Join Kaggle, GitHub, or other communities and learn from the best coding examples. No the theory or tools knowledge would help you to gain experience without practise.
Coding is for chosen?
Unfortunately, you will have not only hard work on your way, and some of you will face discrimination. Sadly, we still live in a World filled with limited mindsets imprinted by the education system or cultural settings. For instance, when I am invited to events, for example, organised by the Women Who Code, Empowering Women in Technology. I cringe. I have nothing against of empowering women who can code. Still, I am against any uttering of gender differences in any professional field. Yes, imagine. You do not need to have a beard to start coding. It is even possible for women, girls, or gender fluid. We should welcome any gender, culture, or social group to work and learn together. Otherwise, we will stay inside of the box and missing opportunities that can be brought by other brilliant persons, which might experience discrimination and often work harder, unsupported, and ignored all their lifetime. Frequently these unsupported people support other people and members of their family and are really friendly to others. They also deserve to be happy coders; let them be!
When still in doubt about being too sexy to code, here you see a drawing of Ada Lovelace, aged 17 (1832), a mathematician considered to be the first programmer published an algorithm for the general-purpose mechanical computer of Charles Babbage, read on at Wikipedia, Ada Lovelace.
Considering that they need to fight this inequality and oppression, I think of them as even more brilliant then the guys with the beard because they “look as coders” and have zero input to society while being seen as the better ones because the beard, skin color, or some other differences imposed by a partial social group conceptions. Just be a coder, respect other coders, be creative and supportive. It will save your nerves and make you a better person, without feeling better with putting down somebody else’s achievements. I like the Kazakh saying :”Ұшақ алаңдарын көтеру үшін тауларды кішірейту”. It means “Making mountains smaller to elevate plane grounds.”
Thus, coding is for everyone. Enjoy it and treat other coders with respect. This will help you to respect yourself in the future.
Dealing with anxiety
Some so many cool guys can code so well. There is always somebody better than you. Just accept it. You might feel anxiety because you don’t know everything. Do not worry. Just learn by doing, join a team, or create your app. You will find your way. Just remember to eat well, exercise and go out :)
In this post, I have shared my thought on coding, and how to start and keep going with respect to others. I hope it helped. Good luck!
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Elena, a PhD in Computer Science, simplifies AI concepts and helps you use machine learning.