Start more projects, please | Data Science Some days

And we back. Welcome to Data Science Some Days. A series where I go through some of the things I’ve learned in the field of Data Science.

For those who are new… I write in Python, these aren’t tutorials, and I’m bad at this.

I haven’t written one of these for an entire month. My mistake… time flies when you procrastinate.


I want to spend a little bit of time talking about learning Data Science itself.

I won’t say how long I’ve been learning to code and such because I don’t really know the answer. This isn’t to say I’ve been doing it for a long time, I just don’t have much of a memory for this stuff.

I will, however, say one of the big mistakes I’ve made in my journey:

Not completing enough projects.

Any time I start a new project, I feel figuratively naked – as though all the knowledge I’ve ever gathered has deserted me and I’ll never be able to find it again.

I find it difficult to do anything at all until I get past the initial uncomfortable feeling of not having my hand held through to the end. Will I fall over? Yes. But learning how to get back up is a really useful skill, even if you fall over after another step.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Let’s talk about tutorials

There are a lot of tutorials online about all sorts of things. Many of them are good, some are bad, some are brilliant. When it comes to programming, you will never have a shortage of materials for beginners. As a result, they’re tempting and the entry point is quite low. Many even have no idea where to start.

Tutorials are also easy to get lost in because they do a lot of the heavy lifting in the background. That’s the more helpful way to teach information but perhaps less useful for the learner. This isn’t to say all tutorials and courses are “easy”. Far from it. Rather, no one has ever become a developer or programmer purely off the back of completing a handful of tutorials.

Don’t get attached to tutorials or courses. They can only take us so far. It’s also difficult to stay entertained by them for the long haul.

Learning just enough

My new enjoyment of projects comes from a video by Tina Huaug on How to self-study technical things. She mentioned a helpful principle:

“Learn just enough to start on a project”

This divorces you quite quickly from an attachment to completing courses or selecting the “right one”. If you’ve got what you need out of it, then move on and use the knowledge to create something. Fortunately, the information doesn’t disappear if you tell yourself you might not complete it. It’s fine to refer to them during projects, anyway.

You’ll get to the difficult parts more quickly which lets you understand the true gaps in your knowledge/skill. It’s perfectly fine for this to be humbling. Getting better at anything requires humility.

It’s more fun

Being the person responsible for creating something is a really satisfying feeling, even if it sucks. (It likely does, only in comparison to those who are much more experienced than you, which is unfair. Comparison is a fools game.)

You can point to a model you’ve trained or visualisation you’ve created and say “That was ME”. And it’ll be true.

When you look at a list of potential projects, you’re more likely to add your own twist to it (it doesn’t matter if that’s just experimenting with different colours). If you’re following a tutorial to the T, you miss out on something important:

Ownership.

The difficulties and successes are yours.

Leave yourself open to surprises

I’ve noticed a few things in a recent project of mine (more on that in the next DS Somedays post, it’s nothing special):

  1. I know and understand a bit more than I gave myself credit for
  2. There is so much more I can add to my knowledge base to improve the project
  3. Courses, tutorials, tools are just there to help me reach my end goal. It helps explain why I always have so many tabs open

They can be challenging, which might also explain why they’re easy to avoid. However, I’ll definitely have to work towards doing more. If not for my portfolio but general enjoyment.

Project-based learning is the way forward.

Further resources:

  1. How to self-study technical things.
  2. Project based tutorials (many different programming languages)
  3. Projectlearn.io

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