Monday, March 11, 2013

Guest Blog: Being Paid to Learn, the Nerd Nirvana by Paul Nattrass

A while back we ran a pretty cool challenge using the Google Prediction API, where we wanted to predict challenge submissions based on certain data sets. The challenge had a lot of interest and the winning member, Paul Nattrass reached out to us with some great feedback about the challenge. We traded emails about higher education and the important role CloudSpokes can play for students everywhere. After Paul and I got done chatting like two old buddies in a pub on a friday after work, I realized Paul would be an awesome guest for our blog. He agreed to write something up, and I must say, I believe it is the first of many more to come. Paul hails from Chorley England and has been doing development for 5 years now. Even though he is experienced, Paul believes that CloudSpokes has helped grow his skills, and push him into new things. We certainly like to hear that, and Paul also said that his wife likes the winnings he gets from competing, so really everyone is happy! Check out his blog below.

Being Paid to Learn, the Nerd Nirvana

I love learning new things, I love making sense of things that I thought I wouldn't be able to understand. Cloud development was one of those things that I was going to ‘get around to’, and then I found CloudSpokes.

Software Engineering in general is a very demanding career path. It is demanding since the pace of change is relentless. Sometimes you feel a bit like that Greek bloke pushing the big boulder up the hill. You can spend years mastering something only to find that what you spent all those years mastering is now completely redundant(<insert dead language/framework here>)

You must effectively give yourself up to a life of study. Most careers you can hope to master in your lifetime, I don’t believe with software engineering this is possible. You are metaphorically running, to stand still.

With studying I definitely find that there are limitations to the amount of knowledge that I can take in without suffering ‘Study Fatigue’. My brain just becomes unresponsive. It literally feels like if I try and push anything more onto my brain stack, important things will start popping off... Mashing knowledge into your thought box is hard and fairly boring.

Now I tell you what makes studying a lot easier. Having definite goals, and the promise of rewards. Now I know a big thing about CloudSpokes of course is the financial rewards. But this isn’t guaranteed, so there must be more to it than that. For me the added extras are the fairly quick turn around on the challenges, and the feedback I can receive. This topped off with the chance to look at other peoples code solving the same problem is great. Staring at other's code can be pretty tedious, but it’s much more interesting when it’s actually solving a problem you are intimately familiar with. It’s not a chore!

To any potential students, I would say that CloudSpokes represents an amazing opportunity to get some concrete experience of real world development. You’ll get peer reviewed, and get real feedback on your efforts. I'm studying a software engineering degree part time and I get a buzz from getting my assignment feedback. This buzz has now been been dwarfed by the excitement that I feel when it’s coming up to CloudSpokes results day. I'm getting feedback, getting paid and getting to experiment with modern technologies. Plus the community atmosphere really makes it feel like you are participating in something, and that your contribution matters.

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