A Python Therapist is Born
Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Now, for those who don’t know Yogi Berra – he was a Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees who won 10 World Series rings, the most of any player in history. Yogi’s advice, while often peculiar, seemed sound on this front.
I can honestly say in my many years of working in technology, it has been some of the best advice as there have been many roads and many forks. Learning Python, for example, has been a road with many forks – and some sporks.
Six months ago, with no previous programming experience, I set out on a quest to embrace programmability. I became a Python therapist instead, and it was yet another reminder of how amazing working at Cisco is – how did this happen? Well, let me explain.
It all began at a DevNet Express event. It was exciting, confusing, and frustrating, as most things are in the beginning. I reacted skeptically to how learning Python would make my life simpler as a network engineer. As I fumbled through the exercises and labs, I could feel my blood pressure going up.
The trouble was that I didn’t get it, and I didn’t want to get it either. The curiosity that had served me so well and drove my passionate desire with networking wasn’t there, at first, when I was introduced to Python, API’s, and IDE’s. It was easier to pretend that I didn’t need this.
I was happy to put that away and imagine it didn’t happen.
End of the story? Well, no.
A few months later, I was invited to attend another Cisco DevNet Express event. This time though, I was asked to assist as a proctor. It’s one thing to be frustrated in learning, it’s another thing all together to TEACH the thing that frustrates you.
Teaching something I didn’t know, understand, and was honestly afraid of was going to be tough and perhaps as uninspiring as a physical education coach teaching junior high physical science.
So, with my most convincing fake smile, I said: “Okay. Fine, I’ll do it.” But, I wasn’t fine.
I still hadn’t come to grips with using Python to help me fix network problems. This Python programmability is a thing that, despite my best wishes, probably isn’t going away. It was time to get over myself and figure this out.
At the DevNet event, I tried to be the best proctor I could be. To my surprise, a fellow Cisco engineer in attendance reacted the same way I did at my first event. He would never admit it. But, he expressed his frustration with an even heightened level of emotion, determination, and fear that I did.
It was at that moment, it finally snapped – I realized this is part of the learning experience!
Every now and then, we go through fundamental shifts in our careers, where we would rather bury our head in the sand, and wish it would all go away. But, that’s a shortsighted way of looking at changes in our industry. It is these shifts and turns that make this field so exciting. It dawned on me in this moment that I also now have the opportunity to help others make the adjustment!
Boom! Light bulb moment! The Python therapist was born.
This is what makes Cisco such a great place to work. Our leadership team passionately encourages us to keep up with technological transitions. They know these transitions don’t happen overnight, and that businesses and people need time to get comfortable with and respond to the change in direction and thinking.
Now I understand that this includes the shift to programmability and the new way of doing things through API’s.
So, now instead of reluctantly waiting for the student that is going to slam their fist in frustration upon their keyboard, I am going to encourage it. Because the faster we get through that phase, the quicker our natural born curiosity will help us to try it again. That incremental success is what builds comfort with this new skill.
That is what is so special about the Cisco DevNet community. It is full of Python therapists that hold our hands and have a real desire to help us get over Pythonaphobia.
I still struggle, and many times fumble through trying to get something to work in Python. But, now I know I can make it work if I just allow myself the patience to persevere. It takes real effort to get my simple little script to work and, even then, when I get it to work I rewrite it, so it’s not so embarrassing to show it to somebody else.
I can live with that though as I work on my new skill, and help the next engineer in their Python journey.
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