Learning To Program Python: Playing With Dictionaries And Markov Chain Generators

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I love the challenges of pair programming — knowing when to stop for direction, when to brazenly code on, and when to take breaks.

By Annie Chang (Student, Hackbright Academy)

Time flies when you’re having fun, and we’re almost 20% done with the Hackbright Academy program. I like to think that my glass is 80% full, and I’m looking forward to emerging from my chrysalis as a coder.

Our homework from last weekend included setting up our GitHub accounts. We learned how to create local repositories, commit, push, and fork!

I pair programmed and got distracted by the Octodex page and its adorable iterations of octocat. It was an uphill battle manipulating lists, files, and directories, but we survived. I love the challenges of pair programming – knowing when to stop for direction, when to keep brazenly coding on, and when to take breaks.

Working with a new partner daily really keeps you on your toes. We powered through lists, dictionaries, strings, and even referenced an ASCII table. The inside jokes will never end… including “strip before splitting”!

Our first real challenge came Wednesday with our exercise involving Markov chain generators. Hackbright Academy instructor Christian gave us two days to complete this task, and it was no small feat. My comrade and I dove into a foreign land of dictionaries, tuples, bigrams, prefixes and suffixes. It was difficult not to feel discouraged, but we did our best to muddle through to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Half-time included a fun drive down 101 freeway to SurveyMonkey’s Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner. The adorable snacks included candied apples and tiny tarts. After a day of wrangling Markov, we also gleefully enjoyed the open bar. The speakers were articulate, engaging, and we nabbed seats amongst a few Hackbright summer alum. I have been stealthily widening my Twitter berth and had a brief chin wag with Hackbright Academy alum Jamie who is now a product manager at Cisco. It is so inspiring and refreshing to meet women who can relate to us and give us hope of surviving!

Fridays are becoming blissfully relaxing compared to the majority of our week. We got to play with JavaScript, which to my newly minted Python-goggles, looks completely incomprehensible with all those curly braces. I paired with Erica for the JavaScript exercises, and thankfully we discovered some overlap in our knowledge database regarding functions, variables, and conditional loops. Fantastic news about Erica — she won 2nd place at the Life is A Game Hackathon! Congratulations to her and her team, and I can’t wait to hear the rest of the story.

Life has been moving at lightning speed ever since starting the journey at Hackbright Academy. Week two was tough but didn’t break all of us. There was hair-pulling, tears, frustration and angst, but the most important part is that we’re learning and getting stronger with each day and task that we achieve. I think the majority of women are perfectionists who place ghastly amounts of pressure on themselves to overachieve. Pair programming has given me tremendous insight on the diversity of thought processes and work ethics.

This post was originally posted at Making Good Choices, Coding, And Fooding.

Women 2.0 readers: Are you learning a new programming language at the moment? Let us know in the comments!

About the guest blogger: Annie Chang is currently a student at Hackbright Academy, a 10-week intensive software training program for women in San Francisco. Prior to Hackbright Academy, she ran operations at Best Chuck, a machine tool distributor in West Oakland. Prior to that, she served as Project Manger at several startups. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and Social Behavior. When she’s not working, she’s walking her dog or crafting. Follow her on Twitter at @anniemalchang.