How to learn Computer Science

There is a group of us LabVIEW enthusiasts that get together in Boulder every couple of weeks for coffee. It’s pretty informal. It’s a chance for us to talk shop and catch up. Often someone will have some problem and together we will all brainstorm a solution.

Recently at office hours (that’s what we call our coffee get-togethers), one of my friends made a comment about how I seemed to know a lot about computer science. It caught me off-guard. My background is in Electrical Engineering, not computer science. I never realized how much computer science knowledge I had accumulated.

It got me thinking. How did I learn so much about Computer Science? What advice would I give another LabVIEW Developer who wanted to learn more Computer Science? So I sat down and outlined how I learned so much in the hopes that some of you all might benefit. It’s the beginning of the year, perhaps it is worth working these into some of your goals for the year.

1. Soak up as much as possible

I read a lot of books. There are lots of good computer science books out there. Too many to list here. For ideas, you can check out my book reviews, and the Champions booklist. A great source is to find a book you like and then look at the bibliography.

There are a lot of YouTube Channels out there that have LabVIEW Content. Most of the content from NIWeek, CLA Summits, User Groups, and GDevCon ends up on YouTube. Tom McQuillan and Ram Gurung both have YouTube channels with lots of content as well. You can also check out our webinar series. Don’t forget the NI Center of Excellence as well.

Twitter, surprisingly has a lot of high-level software engineering discussion. To get started just go lookup all of the signers of the Agile Manifesto. They are all on twitter and putting out good content. Also, check out your favorite authors and LabVIEW Celebrities. Follow them and see who they follow. You’ll quickly build up a list of people who are putting out really high-level content.

The LabVIEW Wiki has a list of resources as well. In addition, check out the QuickDrop podcast and the Maintainable Podcast.

2. Practice

The best way to learn how to write code is to write code. If your day job doesn’t give you enough opportunity, invent projects if you have to. You can also check out Project Euler and Advent of Code. While engaging in these projects use thew as an excuse to try out some new techniques.

3. Join the Community

Join LAVA and the NI Forums. Participate in all the various conferences and user groups. Try to get together informally (like our office hours) if you can. Check out our LabVIEW Mastermind group. The more time you can spend with like-minded individuals, the better.

4. Take Time to Reflect

Reflection will help build your understanding. Take the time to explain new concepts you’ve learned to your teammates. Write a blog. Teach a class. Create a presentation. All these things help clarify your ideas.

5. Take Classes

– NI offers classes. We offer specialty classes on DQMH and Unit Testing. DSH offers some workshops. There are lots of opportunities out there. Take advantage of them.

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