Teaching My Co-founder to Code – Part 1

My co-founder Irfan, 38, graduated in 2001 with a degree in Computer Science (CS) from the UK. He struggled to find a job in CS for a period of 6 months after graduating. He ended up taking a job in sales after drawing a blank in this industry. A stat that has been circulated recently is that CS graduate unemployment rates within the UK are among the highest when compared to other fields. This is in sharp contrast to the fact that skilled programmers are very sought after in the UK.

The Challenge

Yesterday while going through some testing and feature requests Irfan expressed an interest in wanting to be able to read the code. From there we decided to take onboard a new challenge: To teach Irfan coding in 60 days!

In order to contextualise the learning and be driven by targets, I asked Irfan what he’d like to be able to do by the end of our lessons. Irfan does some work with various charities and expressed that he’d like to build some programs that managed user data and sent out automated emails of upcoming events. This target will be his final project for this “bootcamp”. To set the bar even higher I added more learning outcomes after our lessons:

  1. Being able to read algorithmic problem statements and write solutions to them.
  2. Supervised contribution to one open source project of his choice (documentation fix, bug fix, ..).
  3. Life-long learning – being able to look up documentation for other programs and packages, based on whatever he is trying to do
  4. BONUS: Reaching a final stage of a job interview for a tech position (junior python developer)

The tools

  1. To keep things hands-on we will rely on LPTHY book. We start with very simple scripts that teach a single concept and build up from there. I ask him to type code sections from the book exercises and examine the output. I ask him intriguing questions after every code exercise.
  2. We used the Anaconda python distribution to get started on his windows machine.
  3. For standalone scripts and exercise we use my favourite text editor, Sublime Text.
  4. I prefer to avoid use of IDEs to learn so he runs all his code from command line (we did a quick crash course).

I think this is an interesting experiment to see the effectiveness of what we are building in action. I’m posting this blog series to hold ourselves accountable to these goals.

We are Automark, an assessment platform for CS educators. We’re about engaging students to write more code, giving them better feedback, and saving teachers some time. Contact us if you want to give it a go in your classroom.

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