Monday 8 April 2013

Go learn something new!

Over this recent period of "underemployment", I have been attempting to do multiple things.

The major effort here has been to acquire new technical skills, primarily around data analysis. One thing which I was unsure of was the approach to take, and this is where Coursera has been immensely helpful.

Initially, after I had signed up for a few courses, I was a little doubtful about them -- particularly because I have tended to find classes largely boring throughout my life.

The first couple of courses were quite hard to stick with, especially because I was travelling in India, and access to the Internet was patchy. There was a block of a few days in Bangalore when I was practically disconnected from the world, sustaining myself with the occasional borrowed hour of Internet.

The real turning point was when one of the quiz submission hard deadline coincided with a day on which I was flying out to Bombay. This was after I had used up all my "late submission" days, so missing this would mean the grade getting docked.

The submission was due by 11.30, and my flight was leaving at 13.30 on the same day. The house that I was leaving from didn't have any Internet, and tethering was out of the question on a ridiculously limited short-term mobile data plan. I left for the airport way earlier than I needed to, reached at about 10.00, rushed through all the formalities and finally took a seat at the gate, and connected to the airport Wifi. (On a side note: the number of power outlets in Bangalore airport is abysmally low.)

By this time it was 11.00, and as it turns out, this was just exactly the right amount of time to ram a perfect attempt through (each quiz in the course allowed 3 attempts, with a varying set of questions each time!).

After I boarded the flight, I had some time to think over my actions. I had put in a lot of effort to maintain a solid level of what effectively amounts to imaginary Internet points, and all because I really enjoyed the course I was doing, and was genuinely learning. In pretty much every other class experience before this, the focus was more on figuring out "the system" to maximise test performance, petty one-upmanship and sometimes just remaining awake through a monotonous drone.

It now appears that self-study is the best course of action for me, with the occasional group interaction. Using this approach, I've managed to pick up the fundamentals of R, Python, Django, and git over the last 3 months. Now, all that remains is to focus all of this into an appropriate work environment...