The best way to learn is to dive right in

I’ve found that if you want to learn something, the best way is to dive right in and be surrounded by the best people in that field. You shouldn’t worry about looking stupid or concerned about your lack of domain knowledge. Here’s a summary of some of my learning experiences.

Seek to learn from the best

Earlier this year, I came across this field called product management. A friend of mine told me what it was and it sounded pretty interesting. I asked around about it, and at Silicon Beach drinks someone mentioned that the Brainmates organisation were the best in this area.

So I went to the website, saw some of the courses they offered and gave them a call about it. I also noticed they were holding a product camp, so I decided to volunteer and help organise it. I wanted to go, because I wanted to be surrounded by the best in that industry and learn from them. I was persuaded into giving a talk, and I ended up giving a one hour workshop on innovation!

Don’t stand on the sidelines

A few weeks ago, I noticed on the website in Melbourne there was a salsa class. I’d always been meaning to do it but never had the chance or motivation. So I decided to give it a go and signed up for a trial class. It was awesome! I had lots of fun. After the lesson finished, they had an open dance floor but most of the beginners I was with either left or just stood on the sidelines. However, I figured I might as well make the most of this opportunity and I found the instructor on the dancefloor who was dancing by herself and got her to practice the basic steps with me again.

Do short courses and attend conferences

Lately, I’ve started to learn how to program. My motivation is to simply know what is going on. I work with websites and programmers all the time, and I feel that I can relate to them better if I understand what they are doing and what they are talking about. I don’t want to be a non-technical person anymore and stand on the sidelines. So I asked some developers I knew, went to Stackoverflow forums, Quora, HackerNews, and then made a decision to learn Python.

I download Zed Shaw’s ebook, Learn Python The Hard Way and did a few lessons. I could see that I needed a bit more help so I bought his video course on Udemy. Then, I booked myself into the Australia’s annual python conference. It was two months away, so that gave me enough time to learn the course. Again, I figured that if I was going to learn, I might as well go to a conference and be surrounded by the best python programmers and learn from them.

I ended up doing 8 lessons before the conference (mostly the day before!). I found that I was able to do the lessons quite quickly. The more I did, the faster I got, and I was able to do the later lessons in a few minutes. The conference was little over my head since I was a non-developer but it gave me a lot of new concepts and contacts in the industry.

I’m pretty confident I had the least amount of development experience of anyone there – since I only really started the day before! But I still got a lot out of it. I recently read this blog post from Emile from Housefed, which encapsulates my thinking about learning development.

In summary

Whether its learning salsa, programming or a new skill, my tip for you is to dive right in! Look for the best in the industry and learn from them.

I’m out like standing on the sidelines,

Matt Ho

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