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Jan Schenk (he/him) for Postman

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Build Things And Learn. How Do You?

A friend and colleague recently asked me how I choose side projects. I wasn't quite sure how to answer this, because I never thought too much about what I should do as a side thing. It's always been more about what I want to do.
My recent project, a custom LED installation controlled through a Raspberry Pi (later an ESP8266), was brought to life because I wanted to learn about the producer side of APIs, how I would make controls available internally and on a public network, how to make it discoverable and document it. Things that I don't essentially need on my day job (a Program Manager on Developer Relations at Postman), but that would help me a lot with understanding challenges.

That's how I learn.

Screenshot of an editor showing a snippet that details an API

The other part to it, the soldering, woodworking, breadboarding - that's a welcome alternation to working in front of a computer screen. And it emphasises how I emotionally attach to the actual learning and thus increases my productivity.

What about you? How do you learn best?

Top comments (6)

michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

I'm also very much a learn-by-doing type of person.

I'm not a dev, but I've been learning a lot about sound design and synthesizers through a semi-modular analog synthesizer called the Moog Grandmother.

With the Moog Gma, you get a pack of patch cables and they allow you to reroute the signal of the synthesizer so you can get a sense of how different modules work and how they effect the sound. By way of trial & error, I've learned so much about these effects and what all they do to the sound wave. There's nothing better than the hands-on approach to really show me the possibilities and hammer them home.

That's not to say that I don't also like reading & watching videos about this stuff too, haha! But when asked how I learn best, I'd have to say by doing!

jansche profile image
Jan Schenk (he/him)

Absolutely relatable.
I have this experience everytime I use a navigation device vs drive by street signs. Navigation system: I can't recall any of the steps afterwards (besides maybe the first two turns). But when I have to look for street signs and a map on paper, check odometer for distance to next turn and such, then the chances that I remember how I got where I wanted to be dramatically increased.

Oh, navigation system equals video tutorial. Street signs are learning by doing. 😂

stefino76 profile image
Stefano Baccetti

I often start from something I need and then start to create it.
Recently, I've realized a project with Arduino for water temperature control in my house. This is my first project with Arduino and I learn some C++ for programming it. I also learn something about domotic connection with WiFi.
Then, I create an Android app with react-native to control Arduino. This is my very first app!
Ten years ago I started to learn PHP, JavaScript and HTML because I need a web manager for my work.
So, every time I need something, that is the begin of a new start learning...

andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden • Edited

Coming up with ideas for projects and then working on them is how I learn do to new things.

jansche profile image
Jan Schenk (he/him)

Is that mostly work projects? Or private? Both probably work perfectly for learning, but I feel like most workplaces don't leave too much room for creative learning.

andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

Private work projects. The projects we do at work already have a brief from a client. We usually get to choose the technical stack though.