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programming made me impatient: from psychology to python

with python this could have been automated…

1. psychology

The human psyche has been a long time fascination of mine. So much that I felt I needed to watch any lecture I could find on William James before I even enrolled in any psych study. I was fully immersed into the world of the bystander effect, availability heuristics, and personality disorders.

2. doing the math

Quickly after actually enrolling, I found myself drowning in statistical methods. Math did not necessarily come easy to me. I definitely had to put in extra hours to achieve any type of passing grade. I fully understood the concepts, the math bits however… I don’t recall ever feeling that frustrated before. Though, the catch was, I actually really enjoyed all of it, once I did manage to grasp it. Statistics became a puzzle I needed to solve. I wanted nothing more than to figure out the significance of any piece of research. I suddenly had a goal to dissect any statistics used by researchers in scientific journals. What kind of flaws were they hiding? I felt like those people who always find themselves automatically spellchecking any piece of text they read.

3. first encounter: writing syntax

I then seriously considered to study statistics. In my spare time I would download datasets and perform any kind of analysis on them. My free uni edition of SPSS was absolutely godsend at this point. Most importantly, I fully enjoyed writing SPSS syntax. I was able to trace my thought process and I could quickly replicate tests. Yet, it didn’t take long for this sentiment to dissolve. I was shocked to find out how limiting SPSS really was. I mean, yes, it is nice software, but what if I want to go outside of SPSS capabilities? That is when I found out about R.

4. whoever created R…

I downloaded RStudio, and again, I felt as confused as I first felt when I was confronted with just the idea of statistics. R made no sense to me. At this point most of my statistics journey took place outside of university. I decided to not go for a statistics master. I wanted to understand internet culture. So, I was limited to making sense of R on the weekends. My master’s was all about qualitative research, so no statistics in sight. However, to understand internet culture, I needed to use tools scrape the web. Suddenly, I realized I needed to learn an actual programming language (Sorry, R). In order to pull data using an API, I needed to use python.

5. python

My R weekends were soon replaced with python weekends. This is when my love-hate relationship started with programming. I felt on top of the world whenever my code worked. But unbelievably impatient and frustrated when I couldn’t get it to work. This was also the first time I ever experienced what they call flow. I have pretty good time management skills. But python threw it all out of the window. I worked for hours on writing a script that would order a string into alphabetical order. I couldn’t believe it, I seemed to forget the very concept of time. My love-hate relationship turned into a full on love for python and programming.

6. more data and more pandas please

I still enjoy reading about psychology and groundbreaking experiments. And I frequently try to catch up on developments in internet culture. However, I felt I needed to further develop my technical skills. I no longer wanted to work with a small dataset, I wanted big data. That is why I decided to go for a traineeship in data engineering. I dropped python basics for a python library: pandas. It was like doing statistics on steroids. Never have I experienced statistics like that.

7. think like a computer

Don’t worry, I have not actually abandoned python basics, I just temporarily put those lessons on hold. But now I’m back at it. When I first tried python, I could not get myself to think like a computer. I wrote two lines of simple code and expected the IDE to just “get it”. I read ‘Python for Dummies’ and found an anecdote that finally made me understand computers. If I tell someone that has never toasted bread before to “just put the bread in the toaster”, they will probably try to force a loaf of bread, packaging and all, into a toaster. You can’t just tell a computer to “do something”. It needs a full rundown.

8. impatient

Now that my programming has gotten a bit better and computers and I vibe well, I have grown impatient. Any time I find myself using software such as excel, powerbi or even querying languages such as SQL, I get impatient. “With python this could have been automated”. Or “with python this would have been solved in 3 steps instead of 10”. Programming will make you realize how much you can customize. This even means the software you use. Imagine if you could tweak everything you use? This thought process led me to using Linux. I loved windows for its user friendliness, however, it does feel like your stuck in a box. Linux to a hardcore windows-user has not exactly been smooth sailing. I am still trying to figure out some of the compatibility issues that I am experiencing. Yet, I have close to full control.

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