What makes Big Nerd Ranch instructors stand out from the rest? For one thing, we are students first. Yes, we author best-selling books and have trained over 17,000 designers and developers over the years. But we’re great teachers because we’re constantly learning ourselves. Need proof? Check out Kristin Marsicano, co-author of Android Programming: the Big Nerd Ranch Guide. Today we’re talking to her about her best tricks and tips for staying ahead of the game in an industry where two months might as well have been two parsecs ago.
Kristin, where do you turn when you need to learn something new?
Kristin: I turn a lot to my peers here at Big Nerd Ranch and other friends in the Android community. There’s so much information out there, and it’s really hard to weed through. It’s hard to find the right path to follow to organize the information. I usually start with the people I work with to get recommendations for their favorite resources for a given topic.
What’s a common mistake you see developers make?
Kristin: In general, not asking questions. Banging your head against the wall and not asking for help. There’s stigma, feeling like you have to know it all and do it all on your own without asking. I think that’s the biggest mistake.
How do you know if a training has gone well?
Kristin: In general, I judge how a class went based on how engaged the students were. If the engagement gets better over the course of the week, it shows me that they are thinking critically and developing a strong understanding of the material. If students asked a lot of questions and/or in-depth questions, the class was a success. It also indicates that they are comfortable in the classroom. I talk more about my experiences as an instructor in a blog post I wrote.
What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago? 30 years ago?
Kristin: You have to be able to work with imperfect knowledge. There is no perfect solution. When writing code, or with anything, I get hung up asking if I’m doing it the right way; could I be doing it better; what are people going to tear apart here. Rather than worrying, I continually remind myself that learning through iteration is a powerful means to achieving mastery.
Also, I would tell myself to trust that things will work out. The path ahead might not unfold the way I expect or want it to at the time. However, if I keep on trucking, stay true to myself, and am kind to others, things will work out beautifully (even better than I had originally conceived). I never imagined I would be where I am today, nor that I would have gotten here the way I did. I wanted to be a high school math teacher. But I took a chance on studying computer science. And ended up still getting to teach. It just took a different route.
It’s easy to forget that even the experts struggle with fear and anxiety when learning something new. So the biggest lesson here is if there’s something you’ve been curious to try: leading a new project, learning a new language, taking an improv class… don’t let the fear stop you. And if you get stuck in the process, recall these takeaways from Kristin:
- Take a break! Stop banging your head against the wall and ask for help.
- Turn to someone you trust when learning something new.
If you need support on your learning journey, we’re here to help. Thousands of students have found success through our training, and we think you will, too.
Check out our corporate training, immersive bootcamps, or The Frontier – our newest path to advancing your skills. These short, practical videos bring Big Nerd Ranch experts to your screen on your time to guide you through the latest developments in iOS, Android, and more.