If you’ve ever read a white paper, a validated design guide, an RFC, or any other technical documents out there, then you know that although they are rich in content they can be pretty dry reads. After a long, hard day at work, the words start to blur together and acronyms begin to take on a whole new meaning — side note: my favorite TLA is TLA. The documents previously mentioned are absolutely necessary to read, but I guarantee you’ll go crazy if that’s all you do. There are alternative ways to learn skills applicable to your profession.
If there’s something you want to learn, try to make it interesting! Try to combine your new learning path with a hobby or something else that genuinely engages you.
I know I need to learn Python because that’s where networking is going. Automating redundant tasks leaves more free time for the cool projects that really interest you. Python will enable that. “But I’m a network engineer, not a code monkey; writing scripts sounds so boring!” So make it engaging.
I watched a TED talk about flying robots about a year ago, and it amazed me how these robots could be programmed to follow a certain set of rules, even working together as a team, to accomplish a task. There are so many practical applications that can be realized with this technology, and it genuinely piqued my interest. But how do they do it? Well, it turns out that one of the ways to control these robots is to use Python!
In this day and age, there is a wealth of information available to us at our fingertips. I came across a platform called edX.org, which is a collection of universities that have gotten together to provide their coursework online, for free. MIT, Berkeley, Harvard, Cornell, Columbia, just to name a few. These are respected universities that charge an arm and a leg to take their courses. The courses offered range from Arts & Literature to The Sciences. One of the courses they offer is Autonomous Navigation for Flying Robots, which teaches how to use the data gathered by the plethora of sensors on a common flying robot, the Parrot AR Drone, to control its behavior with Python scripts. So far, the course is fantastic.
So that’s how I’m learning Python. It won’t teach me everything I need to know about the language, but it will give me a great start to learn the basics and get comfortable with it. If I pick up a new hobby at the same time, then that’s even better!
If you’re interested in the course, check out the link I posted above. I think you can still register for it. The 3rd week is about to start, but you should be able to catch up pretty quickly.
The hardest part about learning something is taking that first step. Once the foundation is there, building on top of it is a piece of cake.