Learning how to learn: Code Sherpas’ key to stay ahead in an ever changing tech world.

We spend years of our lives attending school institutions, but by the end we graduate the knowledge we obtained is already obsolete. Gone are the days we could have one job for life without having to study ever again. Technological advances, automation and globalisation have made our working life become unpredictable, stressful and ever changing. One thing is sure: “learning how to learn” has become the key to stay ahead in an ever changing tech world. And that is why it is at the core of the Master in Software Engineering at EdTech school Code Sherpas.

Information overload

Never ever in history did we have so much knowledge and information openly available as we have today. In this area of information overload, everyone might become a genius. Yet, the amount of information is so huge, that we probably need several lifetimes anyway. And the old way of reproducing knowledge by repetition seems to no longer make sense.

Changing Work culture

A constantly changing work landscape, forces professionals to rapidly respond to big shifts in the way products are developed and how work must get done in a more innovative way.

Time to relax and play

Innovation only comes when there is time to let your mind wander freely. To be most creative, people need a mixture of deep study with focused attention and daydreaming. The best ideas do not come into consciousness at your desk, or in a meeting, while your mind is occupied. They only pop up when there is space for them to be heard. This is not only essential for innovation, it is, in fact, what has created civilization.

While at work, take a leisurely walk and carry a notebook to capture any interesting thoughts or ideas coming to the surface. Most employers frown on such behavior.

Yet this is the way to create high-performing professionals that are quickly adaptable to change. Why? The answer lies in how our brains work.

The two modes of our brain

Learning a new skill is challenging. Especially, if this new skill is learning how to code. This is because this requires both parts of the brain. That is: the logical part of the brain- known as the “focused” mode, as well as the creative part of the brain-known as the “diffused” mode of thinking. The “focused” mode sustains our attention on one specific and detailed task, such as solving a coding challenge, while in the “diffused” mode our mind daydreams, so our brain is able to make new connections on its own.

Learning how to learn tips

While both brain modes are needed, they can not be used simultaneously. Yet, you can switch between these modes constantly, which is the best way to learn how to learn a new skill like coding. Here are 9 tips that help us switch:

TIP 1: Think About Your Work

THINK!-as the former IBM corporate motto stated- is the best way to spend your time to become an excellent software engineer. To become a Pragmatic Programmer, David Thomas suggests to “think about what you’re doing while you’re doing it.”

He argues that thinking about how to code is an “ongoing critical appraisal of every decision you make, every day, and on every development. Never run on auto-pilot. Constantly be thinking, critiquing your work in real time”.

As a result of hard work, you will feel more actively involved in a job you love, feel mastery over an increasing range of subjects, and continuously improve yourself. In the long term, your time investment will make you and your team more efficient, writing easier to maintain code and spending less time in meetings.

TIP 2: Care About your Craft

Learning to code only makes sense if you really care about it. Or as Andrew Hunt states it: “We feel that there is no point in developing software unless you care about doing it well”.

TIP 3: Exercise on a daily base

Learning to code is like exercising a topsport. To learn a new skill, you need to exercise regularly and test yourself on the material practiced. To become a self-sufficient software engineer, you need to see “learning to code” the same way as preparing for and running is a marathon. It is an ongoing exercise in constant endurance, and not a short sprint.

TIP 4: Creating constant memory

Repeating is what makes learning permanent in memory. Only by repeating at different periods of time, not all at once, the brain will be able to create new neural ways to find solutions for hard problems.

TIP 5: Play around

When learning to code, we do not only need to understand the code, but also experience its content in multiple ways, in order to make meaningful new connections. Coding along with a tutorial, playing around with the code, reading the documentation about the topic, asking for help when stuck and creating your own project from scratch are just a few great ways to train your brain to become better at learning.

TIP 6: Daydream

While at work, when stuck, stop whatever you are doing, take a short break, meditate, think about other things, let your mind wander and daydream without feeling guilty. This is what you need to create new solutions. So when stuck at coding, allow yourself to daydream now and then.

TIP 7: Focus on small, single-tasks

Procrastination often gets in the way of progress. Doing too much at the same time, or multitasking is highly overrated. So, silence that inner voice that tells you to check emails or social networks. And instead focus on one small task at the time. Scan the concept, watch a tutorial, make a summary, code along, create your own project, but do it step by step. One simple, small task after another.

TIP 8: Get a good night sleep

Still stuck? Stop and give it a good night’s sleep. Often forgotten, sleep is one of the most important tips to learn more easily. Sleeping allows our brain to solidify new connections, get rid of toxins that build up during the day, and be ready for your next problem solving session.

TIP 9: Be unlimited curious

Being curious can bring you far. Always ask when in doubt and search to know. The more you search, the more you know. The more you read, the better reader you become. The more you code, the better coder you become. The more you learn, the better learner you will become. It is as simple as that, and it starts with taking nothing for granted and being unlimited curious.

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