Being a research student means pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. For blogger Greta, this meant taking a leap from a qualitative social sciences-based research to a computational one, and in the process, learning to love programming. In this week’s blog, Greta shares her passion, talking you through how to push yourself in the world of programming.
By Greta Timaite
In May 2020 I was a soon-to-graduate sociology student at Warwick who realised that quantitative and computational skills can open many doors. I was trained to apply some basic statistical methods; however, I did not know how I could make use of the vast amount of data generated as a by-product of our everyday activities through apps or web-browsing. Thus, I decided to get a master’s degree. I did not want to pursue a degree in data science as I did not believe to have the aptitude or skills, such as a strong mathematical background. I searched for a compromise, and I found it – in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies.
Two years forward, I successfully completed my MSc degree and worked for a year as a Data Scientist at LIDA. Sometimes I still cannot believe how far I have gone. I want to stress that you can learn programming, or indeed any new skill outside of your comfort zone. It might not be easy, but it is achievable. Below are three tips, applicable regardless of the programming language or area you choose to go after.
You can learn programming
First things first, I think it is essential to believe that you can do it. Growth mindset is important, as mindset for programming aptitude is associated with programming practice. Indeed, it might be hard to possess self-belief if you, like me, have never considered yourself to be into STEM. To be honest, at high school I swapped computer science module to biology because I could not understand a thing! I think I was taught Java… Thus, I had low expectations for myself, but also I wanted to test myself as I knew why I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
Understand why you want to learn programming
I did not want to learn any programming language for the sake of learning it. I wanted to learn the one that would be useful for quantitative research and data science. My aim was to equip myself with skills to work with big data. Thus, I enrolled to a master’s degree that suited my needs. Not only did this decision reduce choice overload, but also increased my motivation – I knew my why. There are many programming languages for different purposes, such as web development, data science, and software development. Knowing in which area you would like to apply your skills will help develop a more focused approach to learning.
Celebrate small wins
You might be a highly motivated person who has self-belief and knows a why. But, at least in my experience, it is still challenging to sustain them over time. Levels of motivation and self-belief might fluctuate leading to questioning of your choices. This happened and still happens to me, especially when learning new concepts. My solution is to celebrate every little victory. For instance, when I just started learning programming, I was so happy to figure out what an ‘i’ in a loop means! I used these little moments of ‘eureka!’ to appreciate my work ethic and remind myself that I am capable. This creates a loop of motivation feeding achievement and achievement boosting motivation. After all programming is about constant learning regardless of one’s experience. Thus, celebrating every small win might pave the way for lifelong passion that currently seems beyond your reach.
If you are interested in getting started with programming, take a look at the IT Services Training website for all the different courses available.
Learning programming is a process that might require a little bit of planning and practice, so if you need some help with productivity, check out a blog on finding productivity or setting SMART goals.