The code expands consciousness.
Or does it? Now that I’ve gotten a Dune reference out of the way, I’ll admit that even though I studied Computer Information Systems in college, programming hasn’t been my greatest strength. I never learned a thing about programming prior to college, and when I signed up for “Algorithm & Data Abstractions” (a required course) I figured I’d be on my way to learning. Turns out that the professor figured that since we were in college, we were able to learn intermediate Java, even though over half the class had zero programming experience. I was thrown in to a language that made zero sense, like someone from another planet trying to communicate with me when they have no spoken or written language. I spent the majority of my free time trying to learn on my own and then teach my classmates who were also struggling. In the end, I learned a lot, but decided that programming really wasn’t for me and tried to stay away from any courses on the subject (though I couldn’t escape - I learned VB, HTML, and Perl before graduating).
After I finished college, I worked as an IT auditor and was given the opportunity to learn SQL. I stuck with the gig for a little less than 2 years, and then left to take a job that didn’t require as much travel, so that I could return to school and get my MBA. While studying for my MBA, I didn’t take a single computer related course. I started working more and more on the business side at the companies I worked at, creating a solid distance from IT. Even though I had been able to learn quite a few programming languages (at least enough to do the basics), I never quite got over the shock from that first class, and thought that if I stayed away I would feel better.
Turns out I was wrong. Having the ability to code opens up so many doors. You can create a better blog. You can understand what the IT folks at your job are talking about. If you have a great idea for a web company, you can start to build a prototype. With my new-found outlook, I decided that I should start with the basics, which I had never really learned to begin with (I’m the type of person that needs to learn the basics first, and then expand from there, whereas some people can start at a more intermediate level and piece it all together). Enter Learn to Program by Chris Pine. It’s a super easy-to-use guide for learning how to program Ruby. It got me back in to programming, or at least back in to the this-isn’t-so-bad camp.
There are plenty of other resources too. In fact, I was inspired to write this post because of a similar one on Venture Fizz from a few months back. There are some great online resources linked through the post - check it out.
To switch gears a bit - not only is having a basic understanding of programming important for most jobs, it is equally - or more - important for us lady folks to have a solid understanding. Not only will it come in handy when job hunting, but it will make your current job easier to handle. If you can understand, on some level, what the programmers in your company are talking about, you’ll be better suited to complete your own work - you are less reliant on someone else to provide you with information or take on a task.
Do you have any other resources to share? If so, drop a line on my Twitter!
I’ve been out of school for a few years now, but that hasn’t stopped me from learning new things. The cost to go to college or grad school is prohibitive for most people (myself included - I’ll be paying loans off till I’m 90), so to learn new things I’ve had to take matters in to my own hand.
The internet has definitely made things easier - whether it be reading articles, listening to podcasts, or ‘taking’ an OpenWareCourse, learning and knowledge have never been more accesible. According to an article on BostInnovation, by 2019 it is estimated that 50% of classes will be delivered online. As a grad student, I took one or two classes online, but always found being there in person to be more beneficial for me - the interaction and friendships built can’t be substituted as easily online. Now that I’m not in school, I’ve been looking for easy online ways to learn online. Here are some of the tricks I am using:
1) Follow people/companies/publications you enjoy on Twitter, and read the articles they tweet. I have my standard arsenal of websites that I read, but almost every day I come across something new. It’s opened my eyes to so many new things.
2) Listen to a podcast. A lot of schools offer podcasts of lectures and events. The London School of Economics offers podcasts of all their public lectures. The Economist offers podcasts and videos on a variety of topics.
3) Take a course from OpenCourseWare and ItunesU. I love the MIT OpenCourseWare courses. You don’t get a degree, and there is no access to faculty, but it’s a great way to learn a lot about new topics of interest. OpenCulture also has tons of podcasts from universities all over.
There are also many great ways to learn offline, in the real world, with real people. I started taking Russian classes at the Cambridge Center for Adult Ed and it’s awesome. I’ve learned so much, and met nice people along the way. Most cities and towns have local adult ed places, so check it out (just google your town and ‘adult ed’). SkillShare also looks neat, and hopefully they will have more things in Boston soon. And one of the cheapest, easiest ways to learn on your own is to read a book! You can do that anytime, anywhere. Within reason, of course.
Just because you aren’t in school anymore doesn’t mean you have to stop learning. What websites do you particularly like? Any cool things in the Boston area to check out?