Diana: Cracking The Code
Curious about coding? So was our trailblazher and global citizen, Diana.
She’s a civil engineer with a MSc in Structural Engineering and another in Earthquake Engineering with Disaster Management.
Diana has lived in Saudi Arabia, Greece and London. While in London, she learned several programming languages by teaching herself and through boot camps.
After speaking with Diana, we experienced two things: (1) we feel less intimated with learning how to code (2) we’re inspired by her drive and desire to challenge herself with a new skill!
Q: Describe yourself in three words.
Third culture spirit
Q: What motivated you to learn coding?
I wanted to exercise my brain! I felt like I had been using it in a very monotonous and repetitive manner; I wanted to reset it and switch up my cognitive functioning a bit.
It’s like when you’ve been exercising the same way for a long time and you realize that and decide to vary your exercises in order to train other muscles. Overall wellness integrates physical, emotional, social, environmental, occupational, spiritual and intellectual wellbeing. Each of these separately and all of them together contribute to your quality of life.
I did not want my intellectual wellness to atrophy because I was being passive about it, and during that time, coding appealed to me. Sometimes you limit yourself to what you think is possible because you don’t see it. Then I thought, let’s change that dynamic. There is this fascinating capacity. Utilize it.
Q: When people find out you code, what type of reactions do you typically get?
The reaction is usually a funny mix of confusion and surprise. Confusion because people do not automatically relate coding to my sector in general, and more so my current job. Then, there is surprise. Surprise is my favorite reaction. We still correlate people who code with the hackers and software developers we see on screen. Anyone deviating from that expectation even the slightest just disrupts that image. So, surprise can go one of two ways; either an interesting conversation unfolds about coding or people think I’m kidding and just walk away.
Q: What programming languages did you learn? What are you actually doing when you code?
I initially learned Python and Microsoft SQL. What you do when you code depends on your goal. For me, Microsoft SQL, for example, comes in handy when I want to analyze big sets of data. It’s more efficient and versatile than using Microsoft Excel.
Q: Did you self-teach or did you enroll in a program?
Both. I figured I needed a boost through a few boot camps on the one hand. On the other hand, there’s such a plethora of sites you can use to self-teach that helped me out too.
I also understood what a helpful and effective tool it would be in the workplace so enrolling in a program represents your commitment in a way.
Q: Do you see increasingly more women engage in a similar path to you as it relates to wanting to learn how to code?
This is a tricky subject. I think the thing with coding is that more often than not, unless there’s a pressing reason to use coding, not that many just try coding out of curiosity. That being said, more women engage in comparison to previous years, let’s just give it a few more years.
Q: What is your current role? How does knowing how to code help you perform your job better?
My current role merges engineering, science, statistics and technology for the analysis of natural and man-made hazards. I’m part of the Canopius family within Lloyd’s of London where I’m responsible for catastrophe risk analysis/management.
Coding helps us to estimate damage and losses. It’s an innovative and ever-expanding tool that’s leading the way in quantifying exposure faster without sacrificing the quality of our work. Coding helps usto push boundaries within the market we’re part of. It’s this ability to scale problem-solving by using technology.
Q: What outlets do you turn to achieve work life balance?
My favorite outlet now is urban photography. London is such a vibrant place for your camera and you. From special spots to impromptu moments, these shots are my diary of daily life. So, I’m going to say urban photography and aerial yoga.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn how to code but doesn't know where to start?
Code with a plan
Resist brainstorming the entire code in detail
Question your solution
Code with a plan in mind of what you’re aiming to reach. Are you trying to code the Snake game? Are you trying to combine various sets of data? What is the output you are after? It’s easy to get out of track and lost.
Trying to foresee the entire code beforehand steals away the creative process. At least that’s what I think. With time and as you get better and better, ideas and processes will come to you naturally. Just start typing!
Don’t quit, don’t google. Coding is train of thought and we don’t all generate the same ideas or have the same sequence in the ones we do share. Do not disrupt your train of thought, let it come to you. Don’t hurry the flow, as you code, in fear of not reaching your aim. It will come to you. Sometimes progress can’t be forced or accelerated. Type the idea you have in mind even if it’s erroneous and you know it. Then use that as your next starting point.
Edit. The first solution is tempting. Use it since it yields the output you want but then try to find alternative ways for a more improved script without sacrificing the quality. Stretch it in different ways. Immerse yourself and see where it takes you.
Bottom line is, coding needs constant work, constant tries and constant fails. It’s not a script you just memorize. Code because you understand that digital means are the way forward.