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.

STUDY IDEAS

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.

GENERAL ADVICE

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.

Launch School

Publications of the Launch School Community