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Jun 2, 2016

Finished Udacity Data Analyst Nanodegree A few insights from the 1-year journey

It has been almost a year that I started the Udacity Data Analyst Nanodegree and yesterday, after 1 year of studious nights off-the-job I pushed the button to start the graduation process.

Udacity is an online university that lets you learn hardcore technology skills hands-on. You are learning through online videos, connecting with a global community and completing interesting projects where you apply your skills to real-world problems. Taking the data analyst nanodegree definetely helped me grow creatively and remember how much joy self-elected creative projects are giving me.

The result of this endeavour were a few showcases you see on this website but the real capstone project was an interactive data visualization of electric car battery data where I collaborated with the R&D department of a large german car manufacturer.

Alongside all of the tangible results there were also some personal insights that kept me going. Here are some of these lessons I learned in the last year. Pick for your professional life whatever helps you get to your very own definition of success:

  1. Always be a beginner at something. Keep learning all along your life, especially as a specialist in IT, look around you every 5 years or so.
  2. Ask yourself not what you want from your career but why you want it. Why do you pursue your current career goals? Brains of different people are wired differently and there are different motivating factors driving different people’s careers. Hustle to change your path towards another direction if you feel that you from your deep inner self need to do that.
  3. You will fail. Plan time to iterate. Be proud if you weren’t good enough yesterday but are good enough today.
  4. You will slide. Learn to get back on the band wagon if you fall down from it. Do never think that you “lost it and might as well stop alltogether”. If you let things slide yesterday, start getting back on track today. Don’t judge yourself too hard for giving in to your very human temptations.
  5. Share your work and your process. Loose the fear of publishing. Put yourself out there.
  6. Surround yourself with people who want you to succeed. In your real life and/or online. If you don’t have those people around you, listen to podcasts or read books from people that provide you with new insights and make you a better person.
  7. Build systems around yourself to make your place of studies / work a place where the act of studying is honoured. Go to the library if you feel like this gets your creative juice flowing. Put chocolate next to your desk if this helps you do this proverbial “jump into the cold pool” that you might need to do before “swimming” in your creative flow on a saturday evening when you would rather want to do something else than study.
  8. If you think you don’t have time, find the time in nooks & crannies. Download lessons and watch them on the train or on your commute. Every minute counts!
  9. Find your own style. Mine is drawing little carricature-like hand-drawn illustrations on each technical project. You can find your own.
  10. Why do I actually draw those drawings? Because after all, we are human! You are allowed to be a little bit silly and weird. Because from sillyness and weirdness comes the courage to try something different and new.
  11. Help others when they ask you. It builds credibility and gives your life purpose. But learn to guide those people back on their path if they are just using you to shortcut their very own journey unjustifiably.
  12. Get stuff done! This is the most important! The most detail-oriented and well-crafted piece of work is useless unless you have it done. And be your word: if you say, you will get something done: do get it done!
  13. Enjoy the process! Reaching your goals will take time and in order to have endurance you will need to enjoy every step of the process. If you cannot enjoy the process, think about if you are on the right path. Because, if you just keep pushing without enjoying the process you will inevitably burn out.

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