Thursday, August 13, 2015

Yeah, but how do I do that?

So, my article on FP IRL has garnered some interest, and I have been asked, 'Yeah, but how do I get started into FP? How can I start using this stuff at my job?'

So, here's my answer. Here's what I do and how I do it.

So, it depends on how and where you want to start this adventure, yes? The beauty of today is that there is so many resources freely available to let you work on them. The problem is that you're good at what you do already, so it'll be hard to move away from what you know already into the domain where it should be easy but it's actually really, really different and that difference can be frustrating: caveat coder.

Also, there are effete programmers out there that tell you how you should not code.

"Oh, Prolog's not pure and it's not functional. You can't do that."

I don't listen to what I can't do. When somebody says to me: "you can't do that," it really means they are saying: "I can't do that." And I'm not interested in listening to the whining of losers. What I'm interested in is delivering results by coding well. If you want to do that, I want to do that with you. If you want to tell me what I can't do, the door is over there, don't let it hit you on your way out of my life.

Sorry. Not sorry.


I host @1HaskellADay where I post a problem that you can solve in any language you want, but I post the problem, and the solution, in Haskell, every day, Monday through Friday. You can learn FP one day at a time that way, be it Haskell, Scala, Idris, whatever you'd like. You write a solution in Haskell, I retweet your solution so everybody can see you're a Haskell coder.

So. That.

Also, there are contests on-line, some with money prizes (kaggle, right?), that you can take on in language X. You may or may not win, but you'll surely learn what you can do easily, and what comes hard in your language of choice.

The way I learn a language is I don't. Not in the traditional sense, that is, of learning a language's syntax and semantics. If I don't have a 'why' then the 'how' of a language is uninteresting to me.

So I make a 'why' to learn a language, then I learn it.

What I do is I have a real-world problem, and solve it in that language. That's how I learn a language, and yes, so I code wrongly, for a long time, but then I start to code better and better in that language, until I'm an expert in that language.

Reading any and everything on the fundamentals of that language, as I encounter them, help me a lot, too.

So, as you can see. I'm learning the 'languages' Neo4J and AWS right now (yes, I know, they aren't languages. Thanks). Lots of fun. I'm doing stuff obviously wrong, but the solutions I provide they need at work, and I'm the only one stepping up to the plate and swinging hard and fast enough to keep them funding these adventures in this tech.

Get that. They are paying me at work to learn stuff that I'm having a blast doing. Why?

Maybe it's because when the VP says, 'Hey, I got a problem here for ya,' I come running?

Here's something I do not do.

I DO NOT ASK: 'can I code in X?' because the answer is always: 'No.'

What I do, is code in X and then hand them a result that so wows them, they feed me the next impossible problem to solve, and I get to set the terms. It's like instead of 'doing my job,' I instead take ownership of the company and its problems, looking for the best solution for the company as its owner. And, like an owner, I say what I do and how I do it, because I know what's best for the company in these new waters we're exploring together in partnership.

Try it that way. Don't say 'we should do X' because that's what (in management's eyes) whiny little techies say. No, don't say anything. Just code it in X, deliver the solution, that you demo to the VP and then to the whole company, and get people coming up to you saying, 'Wow. Just wow. How the hell did you do that?'

No kidding: it takes a hell of a lot of courage to be a water-walker. It has for me, anyway, because the risk is there: that you'll fail. Fail hard. Because I have failed hard. But I choose that risk over drowning, doing what they tell me and how they tell me to do it, because I'm just employ number 89030 and my interview was this: "Do you know Java?" "Yes, I know Java." And, yay, I'm a Java programmer, just like everybody else, doing what everybody else does. Yay, so yay. So boring.

I've failed twice in my 25 years in this field, and wasn't for lack of trying. Twice.

Do you know how many times I have succeeded? I don't. I've lost count. I've saved three teens' lives and that was just in one month. Put a price on that, and that was because I stepped up to the plate and tried, when nobody else would or could. And my other successes, too, and the beauty of my successes is that the whole team won, we all got to keep working on really neat stuff that mattered and got company and customer attention.

And, bonus, "Hey, I've got a business and I need your help."

Three times so far.

Taking the risk leads to success. Success breeds success.

It starts with you, not asking, but just taking that risk, trying, a few times or right off the bat, and succeeding.

And that success, and the feeling you get from knowing you've done something, and you've done something.

They can't take that away from you.



valbaca said...

Thank you for posting this. I was scouring your site trying to find a "Getting Started" post.
I've been developing software in the "real world" for 4 years now and you've given me the inspiration that I didn't even realize I needed.

Unknown said...

Very inspiring! I do not code for a living, but I code for fun and to augment my current job's tasks. I have had to use certain languages due to a certain work place, but I have my loves: J (APL), PicoLisp, Retro and some others. I do it, as you wrote so passionately, to accomplish something that is truly my own, to hell with other considerations. Right now I have chosen Elixir over Haskell, not just for the distributed systems programming, but because it sang to me. Perhaps if I were more schooled in functional programming and types, it would be the other way around, although distributed systems are cool. Thanks for such joyful reading!