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If this dinosaur born in 1971 did it, so can you. What's your excuse now?!

My Love Affair with Technology. Five years ago I stepped away from the only job I knew - being a military professional serving in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) for nearly 24 years. I was fortunate. The SAF allowed me to spearhead many Digitization and Digitalization projects spanning the life cycle management spectrum of defence capabilities. From enterprise architecting to process mapping the next generation command and control decision support systems (C2 systems), I bore witness to how military IT and advanced weapons systems evolved. I experienced the implementation of Second Gen C2 systems into service, and seeded the 3rd Gen C2 systems, and fighting capabilities.

Reality Bites. Given the long lead times for military systems to traditionally develop, I always felt that I was at the forefront of capabilities development. Yet nothing was more humbling than to observe how far behind I was compared to the tech world when I stepped into entrepreneurship from August 2013. The military thinking remained at least 10 years ahead of the corporate world. Yet, I humbly submit that the military world I came from, severely lagged the tech-driven economy, in terms of speed of innovation and implementation.

Unlearning to Learn and Relearn. Since that shock, I set myself the goal to learn and keep pace with the knowledge for current technologies. From 3D printing, big data, cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT), to artifical intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and block chain, and even the latest advances in High Performance Computing (HPC), I sought to get myself educated. I invested in myself to learn from online, SkillsFuture- and CITREP+-funded courses, participate in hackathons, SGInnovate talks, and volunteer in DataKind projects. I learned to get comfortable speaking the language of codes - HTML5, javascript, R, C#, etc, and learned how they all fit together to create and enable digital capabilities.

My Realization. One thing stood out for me. Knowing to code in python is a necessary skill for the Digitalization Age. After attempting to self-learn through Udemy courses purchased online, enrolling into SkillsFuture-endorsed courses, I finally found the course that matched my learning style. This was the Codecademy's 9-week Programming with Python (PWP) Intensive. I realise what ticked for me, where the other courses failed, was the training design. I am an adult learner. I found Codecademy's course designed for adult learners.

How so you might ask?

Validation through Application in Mini-Projects. I like the self-paced structure of the program. Codecademy's design embedded numerous exercises and quizzes to allow me to review my understanding. And the biggest difference compared to other courses, was how the PWP provided mini projects to allow me immediate application of the knowledge gained. I looked forward to applying myself in solving these appropriately matched challenges. This double-loop learning designed process reinforced my understanding through experiential learning from firsthand application with validation.

Besides the andragogy-driven curriculum design, I felt Codecademy's PWP did well in two other aspects of providing the learning structure. Both tweaks addressed the motivational aspects of learners.

"Coding is but the language of machines we must learn to enable the application of our wisdom. Knowing to code in python is a necessary skill for the Digitalization Age."

Pinch of Paying to Learn Moves You to Act. First, you have to pay USD199 for the Intensive. It is only human to naturally lose motivation over time, unless one feels the "pain". In this case, PWP costs more than Udemy courses, but is cheaper to the SkillsFuture and CITREP+ courses I attended. Your cost is really your time commitment into the Intensive to make your USD199 investment count.

Deadline for Certification Drives You to Act. Second, you have two weeks to complete and submit the Capstone project to earn your certification. The time limit to complete the Capstone project for certification definitely motivated me to prioritise working on the project. Regardless of whatever field you work on, the concept of scarcity is always a necessity to drive priorities and actions.

Adult Learning is Experiential Learning. When it comes to coding and to adult learning, nothing beats experiential learning by getting your hands "dirty" to learn how to code. I found greater value from my PWP journey than all the invested time and money spent in other similar courses. The reinforcement of learning from the various mini-projects and the Capstone project made all the difference.

My Takeaway. The biggest value we, dinosaurs, bring to this future world, is our experience - the application of our wisdom for HOW TO THINK to solve real world problems with speed. Coding is but the language of machines we must learn to enable the application of our wisdom. To stay relevant in the Digital Economy, learning to code is therefore a necessity. Allow me to share my takeaway: "If this dinosaur born in the '70s did it, so can you. What's your excuse now?!"

Original Post appeared in Chris's LinkedIn Article:


Chris is a proud Singaporean husband, father, and son, who graduated top 1% with the Class of 1995 from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Chris’s business specialises in making the messiest data sets usable through decision-driven data mashups and then synthesizing those insights into visually meaningful choices to simplify decision making. Get to know him at LinkedIn:

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