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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?

Discussion (6)

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...

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) Author

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. πŸ˜‚

andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden • Edited on

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) Author

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.