I did it. I finished the damn thing. If you've only recently joined this newsletter and are confused, I'm referring to the Udacity data engineering course that's been plaguing me these last couple months.
The course started at the end of January (do you even remember those pre-Covid days??!). In the beginning, it was fine. I was learning a lot, the material was pretty easy, I was ahead of schedule. Then in April I hit a chapter that was particularly frustrating (see previous link), and then I decided to take some time off while Tom and I moved apartments.
Moving apartments went well, and suddenly there were so many more interesting and important things to do than go back to the course. Before I knew it, I only had two weeks left to complete the final project which is a requirement to graduate. Of course, you can pay to extend the deadline, but I wanted to avoid going down that route.
For a few days, I considered dropping out. I had other stuff going on, I'd covered all the material in the course anyway and while I haven't disliked learning how to build data pipelines and I haven't exactly loved it either. But after chatting to Tom and a few friends about it, I agreed that I might as well attempt the final project while I still had time. If it didn't get accepted then I could make a decision about what to do. It also helped that I had a friend doing the course, so there was always someone to vent to when frustration was high.
I knew revisiting the course materials after a break of several weeks was going to be painful so I made plan. I kicked off the project on a Friday afternoon. I kept the stakes low: understand what was required of me, have a first look at the datasets, come up with a rough project structure. That way, I'd have a few days to let things simmer before I really got down to business.
I went for maximum effort in minimum time: I cleared my calendar for the Tuesday and Friday of the following week (because I don't work Fridays that meant taking one day off work) and, when the time came, locked myself up in my study. By Friday evening the end was in sight, so it wasn't difficult to sit down to work on Saturday for the final push. By 4 pm I was done, and by bedtime I got the email that I had passed.
The RELIEF, friends! It felt good. It FEELS good. I know that in the scheme of things completing a course that I signed up for as something to do in my free time to further my career is not that important. Nonetheless, the course took up space in my head. And that space is now free.
For me, completing the project wasn't so much about showing off the new data engineering skills I've learned (yes, I can spin up clusters in AWS now and pipe data into Redshift using Python and Spark 🤓) as it was about learning to finish things, especially things I'm not enjoying. Would I have signed up for this course had I known how it would go? Probably not. Is that a reason not to finish it? Not necessarily.
As I weighed up the pros and cons of dropping out, the main reason I identified not to finish what I had started was that I didn't "feel" like putting in the work. I decided that wasn't good enough. Funnily enough, once I got into it, I genuinely enjoyed having a few days of uninterrupted focus on a task. But maybe next time, I'll try to pick a task that I look forward to... like writing a book maybe?? I'm still contemplating NaNoWriMo but not before I take some time off to chill and catch up on some reading!