How I Drew Inspiration From My Desperation: Become a Programmer
Part one of how I made the transition into Data Science.
A natural, powerful, and primitive emotion that compels every living being on this planet. We’ve all felt prisoner to its unmistakable clench.
It is the anxiety that swarms over you as you hit “Send” on a risky text. Fear resides in anticipation of the Doctor’s call with your biopsy results. It is procrastinating on your dissertation as this is the culmination of a four-year struggle.
Fear is the timidity that paralyzes you into shying away from the ultimate expression of your true self.
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear”
— Jack Canfield
Not solely dependent on an individual’s nature, Fear is also shaped by a person’s social relations and culture. What guides our understanding of when we feel fear, and the degree to which we feel it, is often directly correlated to external influences from parents, friends, and peers.
“The Social Dilemma” is a Netflix documentary-drama hybrid I had prescribed in one of my earlier stories — Write Stories You Want Your Younger Self to Read. The show delves into the emergence of social media and its immerse bearing on our perception of fear.
The “Cancel Culture” wields a terrifying hand in fostering societal pressure. Conformity to the social norms is omnipresent and ostracization looms for anyone caught going against the grain. Consequently, we have become a generation that adheres to the status quo.
Play the cards you are dealt — nothing else.
If you’re a fitness model, don’t even think about demonstrating your aptitude in Mechanical Engineering. Stick to the semi-explicit photos as these are known to generate more likes. And for goodness sake, don’t tweet anything too eccentric. Sure, you can court attention, but ensure it's’ the “right” attention — whatever that means!
“Shut Up and Dribble”
Infamous words from Fox Journalist, Laura Ingraham, rebuking LeBron James for discussing politics during a post-game interview. Turns out being an NBA star and a social activist are not congruent. Life doesn’t offer you the elasticity to play on both sides.
Confine your existence to a box
One box. And fear will keep you firmly shunted in that box until the day you die.
Apologies for my nihilism. As you can imagine, it has been a rather frustrating year, not made any easier by my inability to secure a full-time job. Nonetheless, there has been some progress. I recently interviewed with a precocious tech company in London that has catalyzed the growth of game-changing companies like JustEats, Monzo, and Shazam.
Battling through the grueling weed-out process, which included several remote interviews and a take-home analytics assignment, I had made it through to the final round.
The final interview stage was an hour-long video call with the Head of Data Insights. He was a dapperly dressed individual, who eloquently conveyed his questions with impeccable poise.
Forty minutes in, and the conversation seemed to be flowing well. That was until he pulled up my LinkedIn profile.
“So, it says here you’re a Data Scientist, Software Programmer— and erm, a Freelance Writer?”
Taking pride in my dexterous capabilities, I confidently responded,
I felt an unease emanating from across the screen. The expression plastered across his face was one of suspicion. As if to say, it is not possible for one person to proficiently undertake so many roles. Certainly not to an advanced degree.
“Okay? We’ll be in touch”
Needless to say, I was not extended an offer. Ultimately, they went with a more “qualified” candidate, who had just completed an M.S. and would be bringing in a more “focused” approach to the company.
But I’m not your conventional candidate, for that matter. What the Insights Manager failed to grasp was that I had spent the better half of four years, juggling my athletics commitment with my academic obligations as a Division I student-athlete.
Here, hold my Gatorade.
I recall walking across the stage at the FedEx Forum to receive my Bachelor's degree in Economics, with which I graduated Summa Cum Lade. The following Thursday, I was sprinting 9 m/s down the runway at a stadium in Houston, Texas to win a Conference Triple Jump Championship.
Handling a few data reports shouldn't be a cause for concern. I’m still kicking myself for not stating this during the interview. It’s funny how the appropriate responses always spring to mind once the moment has passed.
Is it possible for one person to be adept as a Software Programmer, Data Scientist, and Freelance Writer?
— Russell Westbrook
I strongly believe so and would go as far as to say these unique trades actually complement each other.
In the next two stories, I’ll highlight how I synergistically employed programming, data science, and writing to elevate myself into becoming a more holistic individual in the evolving world of analytics.
Be a Programmer
№1: Find Death-Ground
How was Netflix started?
If you punch this query into Google, you will be greeted with a story of how CEO Reed Hastings conceived the idea after Blockbuster charged him a $40 late fee for “Apollo 13.”
While others have discredited Hasting’s account as “convenient fiction”, his story adds to the belief that some of the world’s greatest inspirations usually stem from a place of desperation.
In the book, The Art of War, Sun Tzu refers to this state as “Death Ground.” The ground on which we can only be saved from destruction by fighting without delay.
“Place your army in deadly peril, and it will survive; plunge it into desperate straits, and it will come off in safety.”
— Sun Tzu
Amidst a global pandemic, racial discontentment, and political unrest, I escaped the golf course in Tallahassee and made it safely back to the United Kingdom.
Back to Mitcham, London. I now sought refuge in the same barren space I had fought so desperately to flee all those years ago. Life, eh?
And so the job-hunt began.
It was nothing out of the ordinary. Update your resume, create a free account on Indeed, and just start slinging yourself out there. Cast your net, far and wide.
A few days later, I had caught one.
A StartUp App company in Surrey reached out to me in search of an iOS Developer. I proceeded to ace the phone interview by answering a few behavioral questions and chucking in some technical jargon I had picked up from a Swift 3.0 course on Udemy.
What job market downturn? — Tis’ finna be a breeze!
“Congratulations Olushola, you’ve made it to Stage Two: The Python Coding Assessment.”
I’m sorry, what?
No one informed me that the job recruitment process in the UK differed drastically from the US. It was far more comprehensive than I would have imagined, entailing a series of stages designed to test your aptitude and weed out applicants.
What? Did you think you’d be offered a coding job, without the burden of proof that you can actually code?
“You have 48 hours.”
I had been flung into “Death Ground”.
With very little time to ponder, I turned to the only source most people lean on when faced with adversity. No, not the McVities Chocolate Digestives — Google.
“How long does it take to learn Python?”
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that I was not shortlisted for the next stage. Yet, rather than wallow in self-pity, I was gripped by an inclination to learn Python.
“Rejection is Redirection”
— Brigette Hyacinth
And so began my journey into Programming. Similar to Reed Hastings at Netflix, I sought to draw inspiration from my desperation.
№2: Learning To Learn
Sure, formal education offers a structured and systematic form of learning, essential during our formative years. However, I do not recount actually learning how to learn.
This ventures well beyond the use of flashcards and highlighter pens. Do you have a sound understanding of different learning modes and how the brain encapsulates information?
No? Then tap in with Coursera and Dr. Barbara Oakley at the University of California, San Diego; Learning How to Learn
In recent years, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have amassed unparalleled popularity, which can be viewed as both a blessing and a curse. While accessibility to invaluable information has never been easier, it flings the door wide open to a host of problems as you try to decipher what is useful.
Without a shadow of a doubt, uncovering insights on how to learn effectively was THE most instrumental tool I used in my programming journey. Starting, it’s very easy to get lost in the shuffle as programming consists of statistics, machine learning, and domain knowledge.
The learning path is like stumbling through Brixton Market as a 9-year-old. Only, you can’t hang onto Mom’s coattails.
Equipping yourself with powerful mental tools to deal with procrastination, uncovering memory techniques, and learning best practices can not be overstated. You need to master your current mental state before devising any attempts to upskill.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.”
— Abraham Lincoln
№3: Choose Your Fighter
Python was the programming language of choice. It’s popular and extremely versatile. Qualities that speak to my character traits — joking lol.
Learning Python enables you to branch into Data Science, Web Development, and Machine Learning (AI).
With every Tom, Dick, and Harry trying to sell you a certification program, claiming it’s a sure-fire way to fast-track yourself to a six-figure salary, it’s become increasingly difficult to sieve through the bullsh*t.
Ultimately, it’s a numbers game, where there are more students in the MOOCs than there are high-ticketed instructors. Keep shooting and you’re bound to find the right one.
I did precisely that and connected with CodeWithMosh.com.
Mosh’s teaching brought a structured treasure trove of practical techniques, in conjunction with real-world examples that walks you through the fundamentals of Python. More importantly, he had a knack for cutting out the unnecessary fluff. This curbed my learning curve tremendously.
Two and a half months later, I started building full-stack web applications. One such app was a “Bookstore Database”, built using Python and PostgreSQL. I use it to INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE books that I have been recommended, along with their respective ISBN and author.
Eventually, I’ll get around to reading, “Liar’s Poker” by Michael Lewis. Eventually.
It’s staggering what can be achieved when the notion of fear is kicked to one side. Welp, I guess I’m a programmer now.
Sike, passively following along with tutorials is a great way to deceive yourself into believing you actually absorbing the material.
We’ve all been there. You’re preparing for a test and everything makes sense as you’re reading through the paragraph. You say to yourself, ‘I’ve got this.’ You move to close the book, and everything suddenly evaporates.
To really cement a new concept, you need to apply the core principles to your OWN side projects. How am I so sure? Because I tapped in with our friend, Barbara, and “Learned How to Learn.”
Do you think I’m throwing out these links just for banter?
Just like that, the fear of the unknown started to seep in. What project? Am I primed enough to embark on this next step on my own? In any case, this is what needed to be done.
I must press on and continue to find inspiration in my desperation. Follow the link below to read what happened next time on Dragon Ball Z.👇🏾