Notes on Learning to Program During a Pandemic

Anne Jones
May 12, 2020 · 5 min read

I sunk down onto my bed, frozen. It was March 15th, and I had just gotten off the phone with my boss, who had regretfully told me she could not afford to keep me. My situation isn’t unique — in the US there are tens of millions of people in a similar state of anxious uncertainty, navigating unemployment during the pandemic. I had wondered if I would be laid off — I worked at a small, family-owned retail business — but I didn’t know it would happen that early. I had just paid for my first month of Launch School a couple of days before, and while a part of me thought that I should cancel my subscription immediately and beg for a refund, a larger part of me realized that adhering to my plan had become more important than ever.

I graduated college last June with a degree in Molecular Biology. A chronically curious person, I had originally planned to pursue a career in scientific research, because I love the natural world and I love to figure out how things work. For various reasons, I realized that this career trajectory wasn’t for me about a month before graduating. While I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life, my partner — a software engineer — pointed out that if I love figuring things out so much, I’d probably love coding. It turns out he was right.

Because ‘learn to code’ is an extremely vague goal, I started the way many do, with online courses that teach you to code in [insert language here]. These all taught syntax and general rules perfectly well, but I soon realized that if I wanted to justify why I was making a certain decision in a piece of code I’d written, I couldn’t. I hadn’t been learning deeply, and I wanted to. That’s when I found Launch School, which is exactly what I was looking for.

Back in the present, logistics got figured out, anxiety dissipated, and I got to work on RB101. Now, as I near the end of this first course and write this blog post, I̶ ̶a̶m̶ ̶b̶u̶r̶s̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶i̶n̶f̶i̶n̶i̶t̶e̶ ̶w̶i̶s̶d̶o̶m̶ I’ve put together a list of few study strategies I’ve found helpful, and some general advice that I’ve been reminding myself of a lot lately.


I wrote this basic PEDAC template to copy and paste into all my code files so I never feel tempted to hack or slash.
Testing your assumptions before coding ensures that you know how you’re interacting with even the most convoluted data.


My cat, Sherlock, making sure I don’t work too hard.

With that, it’s time to finish up RB101 and start preparing for the assessment!

If you’re a Launch School student and you’d like to reach out (or if you’d like a study buddy), you can find me on slack (@Anne), and if you’d like to learn more about Launch School you can do that here.

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