2017-05-28

As time goes by

Ups and downs. There are not enough assignments in class (no problem, I can google and find lots of them!). The teacher's explanations consist on reading slides. She's not helpful at all during the labs. By the way, it's always a big step from the class to the lab. We can email the homework instead of going to the lab, and I've started doing that, since I have more time to think (if you attend in person, you have to finish the tasks during the class; if you email, you have an extra day to do them. It makes no sense and is totally unfair.)

I could go on and on blaming the teacher, her accent, her lack of experience and even laziness. After all, I did spend over a thousand dollars on this course. However, I am conscious that I have to think for and by myself, and have to do things for and by myself.

For someone with no programming experience and who is still working on another job (and is maybe too old, even!), I think things are going a bit too fast, especially because I have no time to practice and have other things to think about. I have to confess that I thought of giving up some days ago, and that I cried as I woke up yesterday because I couldn't figure out most of the homework I had to email her by midnight.

Fortunately, I can count on my husband, both emotionally and intellectually. We have this whiteboard where he explained, step by step, what I had to do and how the computer would read and understand that. It was amazing. I was thrilled when I got it. Too bad I'm paying for a university to do a job that my husband is doing ten times better. Basically, I'm paying to include some formal education on my résumé, and to try and network.

In short, I think I can make it, but if I fail the exams and the course, I will not take it again. In that case, I may either try to learn how to code by myself, or give it up altogether.

Talking about networking, it's still early, but I find it funny that people don't talk much while waiting for the class to start. Everybody is helpful, but there's a kind of a boundary. At least I get some information from the university about job fairs and positions by e-mail. Again, still early, but hopefully useful for the future...




2017-05-08

Long time, no see

My classes have started. And they started by Java, so I've decided to put Python aside for now. It's not that different when you're a beginner, anyway.

I missed the first day and went straight to the lab. I had never seen that software Eclipse, so I had no idea what to do, and the professor wasn't being very helpful until I insisted. Once I got started, I could do the exercises fairly quickly. They were not hard. But when you're confronted with a software you're not familiar with, someone has to either tell you how it works, or you need some time to figure it out, time that I didn't have at that moment.

Just today, I was watching some videos on algorithms. I think they're pretty helpful, since programming languages themselves seem to follow the same pattern or logic. Coding is a little addictive. Even though it's kind of boring at first, the challenge keeps you going and the problems get stuck in your head. I can't wait to do something really useful, but I think it might take some time. 

I took some days off, but I'm planning to study every day now, even though I went back to my part-time job. 

I'm excited but I could be more, I mean, I feel I'm not doing anything meaningful except learning the basics - which will apparently be helpful in the future. I want to be a good programmer, not just a fair one. Will I get there? I don't know. But for the next three months I'll at least acquire some new skills.

If you're reading this, you're welcome to leave your comments.

2017-04-27

Resisting...

My main difficulty, I guess, is boredom. The first exercises are F* D* boring. It's like cooking, and I don't like cooking. You spend a long time typing to get an obvious result you could have gotten in less time by typing the output directly. I see no point in doing certain things.

But let's say I understand why. Let's say I understand it has to be like this, and I understand that it's necessary to go through this boredom in order to get farther... or isn't it?

Some people say: "you should have a project, something you would like to do". I agree it could bring more motivation, but how will I have a project, when I don't even know what Python is capable of doing? What kind of project should it be? What could I do? What could I think of? I have no idea.  

I found something online the other day: if you want to be successful, you have to learn how to do things without motivation. True. I have no immediate motivation, but I want to learn Python. Yes, I want to make more money and maybe change careers. But I also want to prove to myself that I am able to learn it. If I don't, if I'm not, then I don't know who I am and never knew who I was.

What brings me hope: many times I think should've done it before. I would've gone much farther by now in terms of career. However, I also understand that I wanted to do different things and had other needs and priorities. I also see how I've been evolving, and I get pretty challenged and obsessed when I can't solve a problem. I persist and keep thinking about it until I get it right. I think this is a good sign.

Also, I'm working with Python 2.7.10 instead of 3.6 right now, because the books I'm following are written for that. And what am I following? After trying a couple of other things, including online tutorials, I'm using Learning Python, by Mark Lutz, and Learn Python the Hard Way, by Zed Shaw. I've been using Atom to write/edit my code, and I like it. Keep in mind I have my husband as a mentor, even though I don't like bothering him too much. He's a software developer and he was the one who told me to start with Python. He gives me homework, but I'm getting used to searching online when I get stuck -- asking him is my last resource.

2017-04-25

Harder than I thought... or just panic?

Two days ago, it got really hard, friends. Not that it was difficult. I just panicked. It's frustrating not to know how to solve a problem, a logical one! I think it's because I've never studied algorithms (I will, though), and because I hadn't been using Math in a while. Sometimes I get to make the connections and it clicks, but this is only because I do have a solid basis in Math, and because I like to think abstractly and analytically.

On that same evening, fortunately, I got back on track. I still haven't figured out the best way of learning, I mean: should I go back and repeat similar exercises over and over, or should I try to understand more difficult tasks, so that I can at least become aware of the possibilities out there? It's great when I ask a question that has already been asked on Stack Overflow and I get to see different ways of solving a problem. I've noticed that the ones that make more sense to me are the ones I couldn't think of because I had no idea Python included such semantics. I don't know whether it makes sense to anybody else but me. Little by little, things seem to get together. Little by little, I said - and I mean it. But I will succeed!


2017-04-23

My new journey: it's never too late for a change

I love teaching. I love writing. I love languages. I love helping people. But I also love Math, and Chemistry, and music, and arts. I've always been interested in way too many things to get stuck in just one without feeling bored after a while. I think my mission in life is all about learning and experimenting, and I've already come to terms with that.

We may make changes (and career changes, for that matter) when we have the opportunity and the desire to do so. We evolve as human beings, and we're not the same we were when we finished high school and had to make "the choice of our lives". As times goes by, I think this idea has become more accepted in our society, so going back to school when you wonder whether you're too old for that shouldn't be a big deal. 

Just over a month ago, I was at a university open house, getting more information about the courses I was willing to take in order to get a new certification, in a field I had never tried before: Computer Science. As I said before, I love Math, and was the best student in high school (that, in another millennium, of course). I took two university entrance exams for "hard science" degrees: one for Math, another for Software Engineering. Both times, however, I had also taken entrance exams for other degrees: Journalism and Psychology. I had been accepted for all of them, but both times I went for the humanities. I've had great experiences in both fields I chose, and they are part of what I am now. I learned a lot about people and even became more social (or was able to pretend to be an extrovert, while my soul has always been the one of an introvert, up to now). But I realized that people won't bite you if you talk to them, if you ask relevant questions, and that it's relatively easy to have an engaging conversation.

Right now, though, I am craving for new challenges. I've considered a lot of factors: time, investment, curiosity, possible outcome etc. -- and decided the time was just right to give hard science a chance. I could have changed my career just a bit. I could get a higher degree in the area I'm working now. I could just change jobs. But I picked the toughest path. Maybe not the longest one, though, but certainly the toughest, which happens to be the one that will possibly bring a more positive outcome with it. I think I deserve this. I think I deserve not only a change, but also a chance. I need to give the nerd inside myself a chance, because I suddenly realized that I deserve something better -- it just happens, for a variety if reasons, that the time has come to fight for it.

Two weeks ago, I've started teaching myself Python. It's been the most difficult thing I've ever studied, but I will prevail. (It's a matter of honour as well!) I will write about my progress here, because I don't intend to give up. My first class towards the certification is set to start in a couple of weeks, but I know I will have a lot of work to do on my own to catch up, prepare, go further. I'll keep my job in the morning, study by myself in the afternoon, and attend classes at night. 

Yes, I've succeeded in many things, from school to work. But it has never been easy. It is not easy. Learning is one of the things that depend only on ourselves, our motivation and dedication. Let the game begin.

Thank you.

2017-03-22

Five signs that you need to change jobs

1) You feel reluctant to go to bed because I don't want to start a new day.
2) You drag yourself out of bed because you don't want to do what you need to do.
3) You just don't care about your outfit, hair, makeup: all you want is to make it back home.
4) You lack patience, motivation, and passion.
5) You're not being productive or you're not doing your best.

When you are passionate about what you do and you know you can do it well, but you suddenly find it hard to go the extra mile and start swimming against the tide, it will bring three consequences:

1) you'll feel tedious;
2) you won't be able to use your skills;
3) you won't be able to survive in a competitive world.

So, if you're not happy, ask yourself: is it something temporary, or am I over and done with it? If you realize you just can't keep going, you definitely need a change. 

The next step will be to find out what kind of change it will be. Are you willing to move along with your career, or would you like to try something new?

Does it scare you? You just have gather enough information so as to make the best decision. 

2016-11-11

4 lessons an immigrant must learn

Here's what being an immigrant has taught me:

1) Adapt: respect the law, 
be more reserved at first,
observe other people's behaviour, 
learn the new culture,
the lingo, 
and follow the rules.

2) When in Rome, do as Romans:
watch TV,
make local friends:
that will help,
even though you’ll never have
the same cultural references as them.
Don't get angry or desperate: 
learn how things work: banking, 
writing your resume, getting a job.

2) Start your life all over again:
enjoy, try new food, 
talk to people from other countries,
and learn about things you never knew were possible 
or even existed. 
Reinvent yourself.

3) Don’t live in ghettos.

4) You’ll miss your family, 
and that is the worst part--
but try to live in the moment 
and be thankful for the opportunities 
your life has brought to you.

2016-10-18

Boundaries and acceptance

Is it possible to have a world where everybody is happy and tolerant towards each other's cultural background? I would love, love, to say yes, believe me. This is, however, a little - or a lot - utopic. Sorry. 

Some people don't want to see that. I know it's hard. I know it'd be great to see John Lennon's dream come true: "and the world will live as one." Remember: this song is called "Imagine". For now, that's all it is - imagination.

But... but... No buts. Yes, we don't have to treat other people the same way they treat us. But we have to be careful. It is, indeed, a battle. And there is a point where, if we don't set limits, we'll lose the fight. Losing the fight may mean losing our identity, our culture, all the rights we have acquired, rights that make us feel "civilized". We can't be too naïve . Not everyone is "civilized". Not every country. Not every person. Sorry again. That would be beautiful, but that's not what happens.

Everybody now wants to be politically correct. Everything seems to be offensive. There are social justice warriors everywhere. Donald Trump is there to show how much of an exaggeration it is. And his supporters are the people who are tired of this kind of hippie world. We can't, or we shouldn't, protect what, or whom, we don't know. We need to see certain things to believe them. We have to understand why certain people are "discriminated" against or "victimized". Just because you are part of a minority, that doesn't make you a good person.

2010-05-10

Questions

In life, everything is about connections and how connected we feel...

Connections help us have a feeling of identity. Identity is fundamental, but can also be limiting.

Who can we be? Who can’t we be?

Our lives are personal stories that make sense to us in one way or another.

At a given point, we all stop and wonder what we’re doing here.

What are the problems that we want to solve?

How would our lives be without these problems? How would we feel, what would we think, how would we act?

Where do we want to get?

What will our contribution to the world be?

What’s important for us in life? What’s important for us now?

What are the roles we’re playing? Husband/wife? Son/daughter? Worker? Student? Citizen? Are we doing well in all of them? Why?

When do we feel happy? Where are we, in what scenario? With whom? Doing what?

2010-03-24

Psychotherapy?

There are different kinds of pyschologists and psychotherapists. You’ll have a considerably different experience if you go to a cognitive-behavioural therapist and if you go to a psychoanalyst, for instance. Which one to choose? It may depend on the kind of issue you want to solve and the kind of solution you want to have. Mostly, it may depend on your style and on the quality of the connection you’ll build with the therapist. Both methods can work, as can other methods, too. But you’ll find good and bad professionals making use of any therapeutic tools, as well as professionals you like and professionals you dislike. It’s a matter of exploring and finding out. Once you do, it’s a wonderful experience.

Question: My therapist doesn’t say a word! Is he/she paying attention to what I’m saying?

I hope so. Therapists will listen to you in a technical way. They are not counsellors who’ll tell you what you do. They’ll somehow guide you in your words and thoughts, so that you can find out what is bothering you, why, and how to change it. If they think you’re doing well during the session, for example, they may be silent for you to continue.

Not all kinds of psychotherapies are like that, but for the ones that are, it is important that you open your heart and let your thoughts flow. When we’re talking to friends or even to strangers, we apply a filter to what is being said. It should not happen when you are with your therapist. You can be yourself, and it’s by allowing you to be yourself that you’ll find out what you really want and why you’re not getting there. It’s not that simple, and it probably won’t happen the first time you try to do it, because we also apply certain filters to our thoughts, to things we label as forbidden (morally forbidden, for example). Many times, the answers lie in these hidden opinions and desires — that’s why our symptoms seem so mysterious and difficult to explain.

Talking about dreams may not always be useful for a therapy, but if you want to understand psychology, a good hint is to write down your dreams, especially the intriguing ones. Write as many details as you remember. After that, think about your life and the things that are bothering you, trying to make a connection. It sometimes becomes obvious only some days — or even months — later. Trying different shoes may mean you’re trying to choose which way to follow; objects may represent people… the possibilities are infinite and there are no rules. Each brain is different. By writing and analyzing dreams, you can have an idea of why it is not easy to decode our souls, but you can also realize that it is possible and challenging.

Good luck.

2010-03-23

Spoilers

Life’s a lot more beautiful when we’re naïf and hopeful. Dreams may come true and anything can happen. Life’s a developing film. An old-fashioned developing film.

As we grow old, we become “experienced”. We try things once, twice and a third time, and we feel we already know what it is like. We put an end other people’s dreams once “we know what will happen”. If dreams are absurd, they cannot come true: been there, done that.

And that’s what getting old shouldn’t be about. No one wants to be friends with people who tell us how a movie ends.

Don't let your movie end as you age. Start over, create a new episode, switch things around, and life will become much more interesting both for you and for the people you talk to.

2010-02-12

Life in a second language

Life in a second language isn’t easy. Even if you already know that second language, if you’ve been studying it for ages, once your life actually depends on it, you’ll be now facing new accents and new paces – including your own. You’ll be having to repeat many things a couple of times and ask people to repeat some idiot comments, things that didn’t need to be repeated, that didn’t matter that much.

You won’t understand some jokes and you won't be able to tell them – or you will prefer not to, because slow and truncated jokes won't make anyone laugh. Therefore, some people will think you’re too serious and even boring.

You won’t always make the best word choices and you will sometimes seem stupid. You will feel like telling them you’re not dumb and you may even talk to them in your native language just to show you’re able to speak like a human being. That doesn’t work quite well, though: you'll probably sound even crazier when you're saying foreign words. Just don’t give up, my friend. Don’t give up. You’ll make it.

Eventually.