Hello World: First Steps into Coding
Welcome to the Fountain of Youth, a place where technology, biology, and sometimes humor come together. For those of you who haven’t read my contributor description, let me introduce myself as a trained biologist and a self-taught computer programmer. I’m writing this blog mostly to discuss my journey from the wet lab to the keyboard while also leaving time for some discussion about philosophy and life. My hope is that you come away knowing a little more and perhaps even a bit inspired to start your own transition. Thus without further ado, my first article:
Getting Started in Computer Programming
One of the toughest barriers to overcome in completing any project or reaching a certain goal is the barrier of entry. Before you start working towards that dream, you are actually not on the path towards fulfilling it, and it will always be easier to stay where you are. After all Newton knows that objects at rest tend to stay at rest. How do we get past the natural resistance then? There’s a lot of different formulas out there, breathing exercises and psychology tips, however, since I’m neither a therapist nor a psychologist, I will just share my own thoughts. To start any task, you must first get your entire body on to the path of completion. Think of it as hiking a trail, at the start you need to take at least two steps to cross the threshold to entering the trail. In the physical world those steps are quite literal, but our mental world steps can be less-defined so let me provide my experience to guide you.
Taking the first step, the dreaded initial shift, the start of change. Naturally we are wary of change, so when we start we must make the first, crucial step a simple one. We just need to get our feet wet. For me this was a simple admission to a friend. I was sitting on Navy Pier in Chicago with a long-time friend and I finally admitted that I wasn’t going to be applying for medical school and instead was going to pursue a career in the field of computer science. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, no longer was this dream just in my head, I had declared my intentions to my friend and it felt that my dream was no longer wistful, but attainable. Thus, I recommend for your first step, tell someone and have them hold you accountable. In just a few words you will have taken that first step.
Then a Second
Most people find that the first step is the most crucial to achieving a goal, but if that’s so then the second one will be the most challenging. Don’t be deterred though, because this where you get in the meat of it, you are jumping in now and building your momentum. You’ve told someone about your goal, and as soon as you can after that you need to start the work. Create a task, focus on it, and get it done. Don’t spend too much time thinking about what it is, because the great part about being at the beginning is that all directions are open, you just have to move forward. For computer programming, I recommend learning a language through a free course like Udacity, Codeacademy, Khan Aacademy, or other free tutorials. Don’t worry about the choice, they will all be relatively the same for the introductory courses. Just jump in, focus, and complete the intro course, learn the basics. Once that’s done you’ll find your feet firmly planted on the other side of that starting line. After that it’s all about completing tasks every day because after all, objects in motion tend to stay in motion.
Let me know how the start of your journey goes in the comments below and let me know if you need suggestions or motivation to move forward!