Encouragement and Engagement in Online Learning Communities

After sending off connect requests to the two instructors of the Machine Learning A-Z course, Hadelin de Ponteves was the first to accept. Shortly after reading this notification, another notification appeared. He had endorsed me for 4 skills: Data Analysis, Python, R, and SQL! The other instructor, Kirill Eremenko, accepted my connect request soon thereafter. He sent a direct message thanking me for connecting, promoting his forthcoming book, and wishing me well in my career.

Upon reflection, I realize that one could be cynical of this level of engagement in online professional networking because “everyone is selling something.” However, cynicism can be a cold and lonely way to go through life. It is important to maintain balance between hyper-engagement in online connections at the expense of in-person relationships, but I do see value in allowing yourself to be excited about these little steps we take that deepen our connection to new worlds. For me, this new world has two possible directions that I may eventually need to choose between: data science and web development.

Don’t laugh, but my skateboard instructor (yes, I’m a full-grown woman that just decided to learn to skateboard) and I were talking about this last weekend. He mentioned that skate shops can be intimidating for newbies. My response was that anything with its own distinct culture surrounding it tends to be intimidating for interested learners. We feel like outsiders, like we don’t belong, like asking questions will expose our ignorance and make us look stupid. We often approach with a self-deprecating demeanor as a defense against others deprecating us for our lack of skill. We want others to know we are new so that they will be gentle in their judgment of us.

For this reason, I will continue to be grateful for open and encouraging individuals that continue to engage in the online community long after their own careers are established. Thank you, Hadelin and Kirill, for the quality instruction and continued contribution to positivity in professional development.

Note: In addition to books and online courses, Kirill also puts out a phenomenal Data Science podcast. Check out his website SuperDataScience.com and listen to the Super Data Science Podcast on your preferred podcast platform.


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