Why Programming Teaches More Than Technical Skills

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And how I tackled the skill I never thought I’d learn.


There are certain classes I’ve taken at The University of Oklahoma that I left thinking, “Oh, I’ll never use that again.” One of these classes being the introductory level programming course. There are some things in life I resigned myself to never learn. I never thought I would learn how to play guitar, or learn to speak Spanish, or know how to cook anything that didn’t provide clear instruction. I especially didn’t think I would learn, much less use again, the small bits and pieces I was taught in the programming course. Well, needless to say, I have learned to never say never.

After two years of taking the course, I am now facing it again. Only this time, for an internship. I quickly realized that teaching yourself a new skill isn’t as hard as it sounds. In fact, it can be quite enjoyable. I never pictured myself being the type to enjoy meticulous tasks on a computer since I can barely understand technology for daily tasks (I guess I’m slacking on the millennial agenda). But this new skill has taught me more than what a computer can do and has taught me more about myself. This may come as a shock, but I was reinsured that I am completely capable of learning that skill you always wish you had. Yes, the course sometimes left me pulling my hair out, but I always wanted to understand the why behind learning this new skill. In the end, all you need is the motivation to actually try, a little time to set aside to practice, and an exciting new project!

Tackling this skill isn’t easy, per se, but it was a lot easier than I ever thought it’d be – and now I’m making a concept turn into a reality. Here are a few transferrable skills I’ve learned along the way:

You Will Struggle At First

Learning any skill from scratch is mentally draining. Most of us who have tried it probably quit around the same time: the beginning. Those first few days or weeks can feel like you’re trying to push a boulder uphill. This is the biggest hurdle.

It’s not surprise, really. It’s hard to stay motivated when you can’t really do anything with your skill yet. For me, my internship is only over the summer (so, twelve weeks) and I feel pressured to move as fast as possible in fear of letting my mentors down. But, you can’t move your hands quickly enough, especially when you’re learning to type and read codes. It’s discouraging, but I have learned that slow is better and that this is, by far, the hardest part of learning something new. I remind myself daily to make peace with the fact that this is a learning process.

Keep a Regular Practice Schedule

If willpower is the first half of the equation, the second is time. Once I got past the initial hump of learning, it started to feel a lot less like work and a lot more like time well spent. This goes with any skill or project and my biggest takeaway is consistency. Keeping a regular and consistent schedule to make work feel like rhythm will help tremendously when getting tasks done. I’m still not very good at this, but starting the day with this groove will take far less willpower later on than it did on the first day. Tip: Turn off cell phones and other distractions!

You Don’t Have to Be the Greatest

Boy, is this a tough one to swallow. The basics can get you really far, but the truth is: you don’t have to be the best at everything. My perfectionist mindset stands in the way and then I start to worry if I’m letting anyone down. And that’s the last thing anyone wants to do.

The point that I’m trying to make here is that progress isn’t to say, “Look how great I am!” It’s exactly the opposite. I found that those “impossible” skills I said I’d never learn weren’t all that impressive, anyway. We learn things to share, not to prove. I’m far from the world’s greatest computer programmer, but I’ve produced finished products and had fun doing so.

Coding Is an Art

Many have heard that learning to code is like learning another language. They’re right. Like the creativity of languages, coding allows a unique approach to making a creation. There is room for creativity in everything you do, and like art: it requires practice. Here is an article I enjoyed reading that describes why programming is art.

Do you like quotes? Here’s one I found on the web that I like!

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One Comment Add yours

  1. randypeppler says:

    Very nice!!! I felt a great sense of accomplishment in programming when I got something to work, and I can sense that here. I’m glad you are making peace with the timeline this summer – remember, this can continue throughout the school year.

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