First “Meetup”

“Do not get stuck in the ‘two post dead blog’ moratorium.”  I was given that advice recently, so I figured I’d take it and update on my latest progress.

It’s been a hectic few days including a move into a new apartment, lots of Frisbee, and overtime hours at the regular day job. All that said, I still managed to hit my first “meetup.” Being a social guy and loving to talk to people, I figured I’d enjoy a more social approach to learning. So I downloaded the app, “Meetup” and signed up for a bunch of coding/programming/hacking meetups. I get notifications each time I sign up and each time someone posts something in the groups. RIP Gmail inbox. The best part about all (or at least most) of these things, they’re 100% free. To anyone in the Denver area at all interested, the Denver Public Library has a pretty cool list of sessions of available, including a 4 week intro program on Javascript. I’ll definitely be heading to the library quite a bit in the next few months.

The class I attended taught the basics of SQL. For anyone that doesn’t know, SQL, from my understanding, is a programming language that allows you to access a large data base and pull all sorts of info from it. I’m sure that description is a) woefully simplistic of what it can actually do and b) offensive to people who know it’s full capabilities. Oh well, I’m learning, lay off me!

Anyway, I had no idea what SQL was before this class. In fact, in my head before the meetup I referred to it as “ES, CUE, EL” not realizing it was actually pronounced “Sequel.” Sounds way cleaner that way, probably a smart move on whoever was responsible for that. So for the actual meetup, I packed in to a pretty cool room on the fourth floor of the library. A cool space reserved for just these types of get-togethers. I had no idea what to expect in terms of instructor, people, set up, lesson difficulty, etc. But it actually went really well. It was slightly dry in terms of presentation, but it was well paced, informative, and fun nonetheless.

There was a pretty diverse group of people, in terms of age, race, and even gender! I was pleasantly surprised to see a decent number of women in the class. Not out of sexual interest or anything, but rather my understanding was that programming is a highly male-dominated industry, so it was great to see women breaking the stigma in that regard and taking action to learn. The lesson itself was an hour and a half demo of SQL where we all watched him enter code on a projector and mimicked the same stuff on our own devices. When appropriate, he explained a bit about the SQL language and how it interprets what we enter in and thus how to manipulate our entries to yield the result we want. Pretty neat stuff. I later commented to my friend, who works heavily with SQL, that it seemed like a complex way to get the same stuff that Excel can do. He laughed at my ignorance and assured me it was WAY more powerful than Excel. I think my response was “oh… ok.”

I will say that given what I’m trying to learn, I’m extremely grateful that I took an introductory computer science class as part of my undergrad work. Despite the University of Delaware’s sometimes bizarre required courses, I couldn’t be happier (now) that CISC105 was a course I had to take. Without it, I’d feel even more overwhelmed than I already do when reading/writing/learning code. I have a general feel for what the syntax should be, what sort of beginner errors are common, etc. That’s to say, it’s not completely foreign to me. So if my lone comp sci professor ever reads this, here’s a note for him: Terry Harvey, I thought you were a major pain in the ass, demanded too much of your students for a class they didn’t want to be in, and generally kind of odd. But dammit do I appreciate your commitment to what you taught and the enthusiasm you had for it. Your high standards, coupled with your willingness to help anyone with even a vague interest, have finally been appreciated by me years later.

Harsh? Meh I don’t think so. As a former teacher, I’d be ecstatic to get a similar note. Plus, he’ll probably never see this.

Anyway, here are my personal Do and Don’t’s for future meetups!

Do: Get there early! When you have bad eyes, being far away from the projector is a horrible idea! You’ll easily miss a semi-colon and your whole code won’t work and you’ll be pissed. (This exact thing happened.)

Don’t: Be that guy that asks super high level questions in an intro class. It puts the presenter in a weird spot having to answer in a way that makes you happy AND doesn’t lose the interest of 90% of the class (note: this was NOT me)

Do: Talk to people! Lots of people are in the same boat. Working on things alone is not only challenging, but way less fun.

Don’t: Be afraid to ask questions. I sat next to one of the meet up organizers, and he was really helpful when I forgot that aforementioned semi-colon, among other times.

Do: Sit next to someone who looks like they think “man, this shit is way too easy.” They likely know more than you and will be able to help you.

Don’t: Sit next to someone who looks like they think “man, this shit is way too easy.” They’ll probably be annoyed by your novice status and won’t want to help you more than once.

See ya at the next step,

Sean

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2 Comments

  1. Keegan, its awesome to see you doing this. I’ll be following your journey if not silently here out and just want you to know that I’m a brother in arms as it were teaching myself website design on codecademy. Keep on keepin on!

  2. Rob D

    Never knew it was ‘Sequel’. I’ve been saying it wrong like a jerk all this time. Fortunately, I’ve never talked to anyone about SQL, so the mispronunciation has only been a part of my internal monologue.

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