That’s why we’ve turned to an expert. Diego Rodriguez, data scientist and Python instructor, is here to help answer our most pressing questions.
What do beginners need to know about learning a coding language?
DR: Learning programming languages can be intimidating, so it helps to know a little bit about them to make the process of learning approachable. It is no different than learning a natural language. You start by learning syntax and basic vocabulary. You apply those concepts effectively, and then you learn new ones.
Which language did you learn first and why?
DR: I took a Java class in high school. I learned the vocabulary and syntax, but I never used it professionally or in academia, so I forgot most of it. In my data science program at General Assembly, I learned Python, and I use it almost every day, so I’d say Python is my first programming language. Python is known as a general-purpose programming language. It’s an instrumental tool for my work in data engineering, data analysis, and data science.
What is the easiest programming language to learn?
How have programming languages evolved? What makes one better than another?
DR: Programming languages were created to either suit a specific purpose or as a more general and legible language. For example, Python was inspired by Java and C, and ABC. Every new language builds on its predecessors in some ways. There may be improvements in usability, or speed, or readability. Python, for example, is more readable than other OOPs, but it’s slower to process. On the other hand, Go is similar to Python syntactically and also built on C, but executes much faster.
What is the most challenging aspect of learning to code?
DR: I think new coders can have a hard time figuring out an optimal approach to a coding problem or with debugging their code. You can do a lot with a little bit of coding knowledge, but it’s important to watch out for coding inefficiencies — writing 30 lines of code for something that could’ve been done in two lines. And in regards to debugging, it’s one of the most frustrating things about coding. But over time, you learn to not repeat mistakes and to troubleshoot your code more efficiently. The important thing to keep in mind is that both challenges are part of the learning process. Everyone experiences them!
Is it possible to teach yourself coding?
DR: Sure! I know many coders who are self-taught. But I know more who have had some formal instruction. For those new to coding, it helps a lot to have a curriculum to follow, and it’s even better if you have an instructor to guide you. As you gain coding experience, you will take on new challenges, some of which will require you to learn new techniques, libraries, or even entire programming languages. So having a self-taught mindset is an important part of being a coder. There are no prerequisites to coding, just being curious, patient, and open-minded.
Will coding save the world?
DR: Such an interesting question! I think coding has made life more enjoyable and fruitful. Those who code for a living have made tremendous contributions in fields like STEM, entertainment, transportation, and everything in-between. It’s safe to say that coding has made parts of the world smarter, healthier, and safer. If we as a society ever need saving, code may be the way to go about doing that. Things that are created to allow the survival of mankind will often be technological in nature, and therefore based on code.
So, the TL;DR?
DR: If you take anything away from this conversation, it’s that you should learn to code! I recommend Python!
Want to learn more about Diego?