Why everybody should visit IT Beginners Courses

Insights from a free online workshop for Data Applications

students learn with computers

Disclaimer 1: If you are an experienced data engineer or developer, don’t expect too much of the courses described here.

Although I am a seasoned Enterprise Architect, I am somewhat new to the Snowflake ecosystem, and so I decided to get a glimpse behind the scences. After having absolved the first part, I continued my Snowflake quest with a beginner’s course part 2 — building data applications. Both are free online courses targeted at a beginner’s audience.

Disclaimer 2: I won’t go into course details in this post. Feel free to check out the course material on your own.

My personal learning approach

Before I dig in the details of database programming, I have a confession to make — I love walking through starter courses even if I am way beyond the topic they try to place. For example, I just recently took the the complete pre-reader computer course to acquire first coding prerequisites for young kids like clicking, drag and drop, and algorithmic basics. See here what I coded during the course 😅

This might sound silly — why wasting time with stuff you already know for ages? For me, there are three reasons to do so:

  1. you never know if you really knew. We are all perfect in not admitting knowledge gaps, even to ourselves (I spare you the sermon this time why I believe that our current school system plays a big role in this pattern, but I will come back to it, promised). And while revisiting a domain you know expertly for a long time, there are suddenly snaps of insights at topics you always managed as a “I never understand that but it’s non-essential anyways” blackhole. Did you hear that snapping sound when suddenly the black hole vanishes? What a wonderful relief! (ok, I admit I didn’t have too many of those in the prereader course)
  2. Being in a learning situation but having the engine idle is always a great opportunity for creative outbursts. “What if” ideas come to my mind, and many cross connections occur while I walk through non-exhausting learning paths (of course, the best are non-exhausting even if you learn new stuff, but that’s another story again…)
  3. Being not challenged with the topic, I get a very good sense whether the course creators were empathetic towards their learners. Were these creators passionate? Were they able to switch sides and feel what a learner needs? Can “the flow” be achieved with the material they provide? Do they cause that incredible satisfying feeling that you have when you follow a course and discover new worlds for yourself, without someone hammering unnecessary stuff in your head?

I felt that way with code.org, and I felt that way again with the Snowflake on-demand training to build data applications.

In some way, it is a typical “do exactly what I told you or you will fail” training, but they obviously target learners who never saw a piece of program code or a commandline interface before. So they have to balance freedom of exploration vs. not getting lost in the jungle, and they did good so in my opinion.

Course Content

The course covers

  • how to feed data into Snowflake with low code SaaS environments (They use Rivery)
  • how to program a web application with a python framework that deals with all deployment aspects (Streamlit in this course).
  • how to connect all these helper apps to a Snowflake database.

Nothing more, nothing less. Even with the low-code tools a demanding task. “What was this git-thing again?”, some learners might wonder when they start going deep.

Disclaimer 3: I personally feel that these kind of low-code tools are only working in an enterprise environment if you really embrace them as a self-service offering from the IT for your business users. Letting this out otherwise might have more destabilizing effects to your infrastructure. So, while having them for learners is great to hide away the complexities, but if you plan to roll out these courses in your corporation, make very clear what these supporting tools are, and whether and how you plan to use them.

The exercises took several steps and keep you busy for at least a weekend, even if you are not starting at point zero. In the latter case, you might need to add some hours to feaze some of the more subtle errors you did and that were not explained. (No offense towards the course, there are always steps out of your control as a course designer.)

As an experienced IT architect, I passed with flying colours. But of course I learned a lot in this course:

  • ad 1. SQL is one of these fields where you never really know everything, so I could memorize some command I never really cared about
  • ad 2. yes, many new ideas about data architectures came up while I did that course. And no, these ideas do not involve low code or self-service BI environments 😂
  • ad 3. You can see how the course creators try to anticipate every hurdle, and present even some paths around deficiencies in the suggested tooling. Hey they even bitch about the courseware platform not allowing to reach 100% because you cannot click “next” on the last page of the course. I really love that.

Conclusion

In total, a clear thumbs up for the course, for the approach and for your quest into the world of cloud databases. Even if Snowflake doesn’t stick (and there are reasons for it I do not want to discuss in this post), it is a valuable introduction into the domain, and you might even get some inspirations for your work environment from it.

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Martin Jahr

Martin Jahr

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Digital Designer & life-long learner of computers & humans. Now up to create, coach and deliver learning deployment strategies in Germany where things are late.