Being a molecular/cellular biologist and neuroscientist I never imagined the need for coding until I joined a psychology and biophysics lab. Within this lab it became apparent that lab work is not consistent with what modern social media portrays it as. Rather, it is a technological giant that uses coding to design models to make supported hypotheses that can be proved later on through minimum wet lab studies. This approach saves time and money which is why coding is such an essential tool within my career.
At surface levels non-technological based careers may seem to lack any connection with coding, but once you dive into your career I assure you in some way shape or form coding will be used or can be used to make your job easier and more efficient. Through research and other forms of study I realized the Python programming language would benefit me the most and introduce me to the programming world. But this raises a question, how do you learn to code in python?
Step 1: Understand What You Are Looking At!
When I started python coding I felt overwhelmed and confused where to start, so like anyone else I googled “Learn Python,” which simply led to an abundance of useless blogs and youtube videos jumping into the deep end of Python. Making me want to quit all together. I eventually swallowed my pride and asked my boss where they would recommend starting and they recommended a free resource called Codecademy and provided me with a link to the beginner course (https://www.codecademy.com/learn/learn-python). Upon starting the course I went into it with the mentality of, “let’s speed through and get certified!” only to realize that I could not understand why I was coding what I was coding and was simply following the directions in the course instead of reading through the explanations. So I restarted the course and made sure that with every lesson I understood exactly what I was coding by understanding what the explanation was saying. If I did not understand the explanation, Codecademy allows you to post a question in the forums where verified programmers will answer them within a day or so!
Step 2: Open Source Python Projects is the Next Step to Mastery
While I was going through the course I was worried that I was only understanding the material because there were explanations and also directions, so I set out to verify I was truly understanding the material while I went through the course to see if I needed to go back and solidify my understanding more. Personally I found that looking at open source python repositories or projects and seeing how much of the code I can explain helped reassure me I was truly learning how to code. You can find these projects or repositories if you google github open source projects or more specifically github open source python projects. I started off by looking up beginner open source projects which led me to open source projects that were easy for me to read and follow. After I felt comfortable with these easier open source projects I looked into various difficulties by simply google python open source projects which helped me truly gage how much I have learned and how much I still need to learn.
Step 3: Tying It Together
Once you have done Step 1 (understanding how to read and code python) and step 2 (ensure you have understood step 1 by reading open source python codes) it is time to tie everything together!
Personally, this step was the hardest for me. You have to apply your knowledge to truly learn the material you have understood in step 1 and solidified in step 2. I went about this by programming minor games. In one of codecademy’s lessons they walk you through step by step how to program the game battleship! I felt this lesson really told me what I did not understand and helped me truly learn what I did understand, so I made a list of easy arcade games I could remember of the top of my head:
Some of these games I had to explore codecademy for additional lessons, but they always had some material to help me reach the next step in coding these games. DISCLAIMER: To get the most out of step 3 try your hardest not to look on youtube for any videos or look at any github open source python codes related to the games. I know it’s very tempting and I would be a liar if I said I did not look up a youtube video here and there, but I immediately would stop once I realized I was simply following step by step instructions.
Learning code is hard, but after a month of rigorous studies (5 to 8 hours a day) I can confidently say I am intermediate at coding. By no means am I advanced at coding yet, but that comes with time.
Improve yourself and your career position by taking the first step in learning how to code!