It is easy to get started with something. All it takes is getting out of bed in the morning, stretching and saying: ‘Today, I will start to <fill blank>!’ And that’s it. Congratulations, you just started something new. After this point in time, you can refer to it on every get-together, party or to a stranger in the supermarket as ‘I recently started <fill blank>!’. You can earn all the jealous or admiring looks. People will whisper: ‘This is _______, and they recently started <fill blank>!’ Well, maybe it’s not that easy. But you get the idea. As someone with a lot of ideas what I want to start doing in the future, and what I want to learn, I have been at this point in my life so many times that I stopped counting. With all the great resources available for free within seconds, or at quite reasonable prices on learning portals, getting started with something new is as easy as ever. It’s so much fun to use a rainy Saturday to start learning SQL or knitting or how to bake a sourdough bread (okay, that last one will take you more time than one Saturday). But – and it’s a big but – the struggle starts after the first step.
Imagine you want to start baking. The ‘Hello World!’ of baking could be a plain 4-ingredient sugar cookie. You will find many, many, many tutorials on how to bake a cookie, and it’s really easy! Just use all the ingredients in the recipe, approximately in the right ratio, put them in the oven in any form you like, and you will get something that smells like a cookie, looks like a cookie, and tastes like a cookie. Congratulations! You can now bake. During the next steps, you will maybe learn that the ratio of your ingredients influences the result, and that baking time and temperature also have their impact. You will learn about decorating that sugar cookie, modifying its shape, or stacking two cookies with a sugar paste inbetween. This is the end of the tutorial. You feel pumped! You are able to do anything! … You think. Just on the next day, when you try to bake your favorite oatmeal cookies, you fail horribly and are left with unidentifiable, unpleasing blobs of dry oatmeal. You wonder why this happened. You did a cookie tutorial! The oatmeal cookie is a cookie, it has the same shape, it nearly looks the same, it has a lot of shared ingredients. Still, you were lacking the experience of what adding rolled oats to your dough would do.
In the realm of programming, this is the critical point at which you know about the basics, you know data types, reading from files, writing to files, importing a library, using methods. Then you try to do something on your own, and… you fail. Although you thought that you nearly did the same as in the tutorial. And you’re left with errors that you cannot resolve yourself, because you simply don’t know what the problem is. I didn’t have friends around that were more experienced than me who I could have asked. Googling the solution helped in some cases, but too many times my problem was that I didn’t even know what to google! Typing ‘My very rudimentary python program does not give me output but it should’ is not very promising in the first place. At this point, I was lacking guidance. Resources I found online either were far too easy or far too difficult. Comparing it to baking again – I jumped from sugar cookie to macaron, set up for failure from the beginning.
I am not a programmer. I don’t even come from any MINT studies, nor did I really enjoy them in school. I need a bit more guidance than someone to whom mathematics, statistics and artificial languages come naturally. This is why I am blogging about my journey. I know that I am not the only one. I gave up several times in the past, because I found myself in dead ends and simply didn’t know what to do next. I have reached this stage with all kinds of topics – with setting up my own Linux system, with Python, machine learning, team leading, and even baking. But I fought my way through the oatmeal cookie stage, and I am a very experienced baker now. I started from scratch with machine learning and made several detours to gain knowledge that I didn’t know I was missing – and I ended up at a point where the paths in front of me are much clearer. I made mistakes when I started leading teams and learned from them.
I am also not a studied manager. However, I became a manager in the company I work for, and I had to take over all the tasks a manager usually has to take on. I was lacking knowledge and experience, and was struggling a lot of times. By blogging about my findings, mistakes and thoughts, I hope to support others that are in the same position, and who also do not have the time to take six months of to do a micro masters first. Last but not least – learning is so much fun! Sharing my learning journey just makes me happy.
I lost most of the time finding out what it actually was that I was missing. By blogging about my experiences and findings, I hope to encourage others to not give up. My blog is a present to past-me and everyone who struggles with the same things I did. Hopefully, reading about my journey will save you some research time!