The other day, I was talking to a friend who wanted to make a career transition into data science.
"I don't know where to start," she told me.
She isn't the first person I've heard this from.
Every time someone comes to me for career advice, its some version of "I don't know where to start learning, I don't come from a technical background," or "could you help me get started with data science projects?"
I've answered questions like these multiple times, provided people with a list of resources to get started, pointing them in the right direction.
However, after some time, I realized that the problem wasn't the lack of resources.
A simple Google search will show you how to get started in data science. The Internet is full of success stories - self taught data scientists who managed to break into the industry and are now teaching others how to do the same.
The problem isn't the lack of resources available online. There is an abundance of resources online.
The problem is that people don't know where to start.
People are afraid to start.
When you enroll yourself into a university degree or complete a data science bootcamp, there are clear instructions on how to proceed.
There are people in the same situation as you are, so you have others you can talk to. You have guidance, can speak to professors when you get stuck on a problem, and apply for jobs together with your peers.
However, when you start something on your own, you are all alone.
There is no guidance, nobody to speak to, and no friends to do projects with. Your only resource is the Internet, and you only have yourself to compete with.
For most people, this is scary.
Our society is so used to a traditional classroom setting, so learning something on your own can be unsettling.
It can also be demotivating, and you have no clear way of measuring your progress. There is no one to hold you accountable if you fail, or force you to repeat a grade. You are all on your own.
Starting out is the most difficult part of any journey.
Once I took my first data science online course and decided to commit to it, everything else fell into place.
After I overcame my fear of programming and solved one coding challenge on the Internet, I gained confidence and was able to do at least 3-4 problems a day.
Once I worked on my first idea and built a data science online project, I realized how magical it felt to make ideas come to life. I have worked on at least 10 more projects since then.
Initially, I was afraid to start posting my work on the Internet. I just had a few months of data science experience, while most people blogging about data science were Master's degree holders. Also, many of these people were really good writers.
I decided to start writing anyways.
My first article got exactly 0 views.
Then after a day or two, a popular Medium publication offered to pick it up. I was excited!
I expected readers to start pouring in.
Unfortunately, nothing of that sort happened. My article got exactly one clap. And it was from my dad.
I still continued writing, though. It was as though a faucet had turned on after I wrote my first article, and I could no longer help myself.
Today, my articles garner a reasonable number of views. I earn slightly more than a living wage from my writing, and I'm happy with it.
I used to wait for a long time before actually doing things. I wanted to wait till I was completely prepared before I applied for a job. I wanted to take online courses in writing before I started publishing articles.
I wanted to become an experienced programmer and take calculus modules before I started learning data science.
It took me very long to realize that I was overthinking, and blocking my own progress.
If I had waited till I was completely prepared, I would have been 90 years old before landing my first job.
Conclusion: Don't think, just start.