2016 Goals Update: Functional Programming Principles in Scala

As I mentioned in ‘One Year In’, I have a set of goals I’d love to achieve this year.

  1. Deliver a talk at at least one more conference. Even though there have rarely been other times when I have been as nervous as I am before public speaking, it is one of the most fulfilling things I have done in my career so far.
  2. Help organise a community event (codebar?).
  3. Finish Coursera’s Functional Programming Principles in Scala (finally!).
  4. Start a home project and see it through to the end.

Last week, I finally finished Coursera’s Functional Programming Principles in Scala after three attempts. When I was enjoying a particular exercise, I couldn’t wait to work on it. I would use all of my spare moments to squeeze in some extra time and it was quite common for me to use my lunch hour. However, when it was an exercise that I found too hard, I really had to force myself to go back and keep chipping away. I guess learning is always a little like that.

Favourite Assignments

  • Week 1 – Getting Started + Functions & Evaluation: Recursion – I really enjoyed the first two exercises in this assignment. Although there is a caveat to this being in my favourite list; the ‘counting change’ problem was the reason I gave up the whole course the first time I enrolled. I personally think it is much too hard for the first assignment. However, the first two problems are fun and quick! It got me really excited for the rest of the course.

  • Week 2 – Higher Order Functions: Functional Sets – This one is the first ‘real’ assignment and it is a great introduction to what the course structure will be like from now on. It had a simple concept – fill in the gaps.

  • Week 4 – Types and Pattern Matching: Huffman Coding – My favourite, by far! I really enjoyed this one because I never felt demotivated. There were obviously times when it was difficult, but never so much that I wanted to quit. These ‘hard bits’ were also scattered around. It was like walking up and down some hills rather than facing a mountain. This is the sign of a perfect exercise for me, provides motivation and satisfaction to keep you going.

The Rest

  • Week 3 – Data and Abstraction: Object-Oriented Sets – Well this drops you way down in the deep end. It was far too abstract for me and I found it hard to get my head around what the exercises were asking of me. It was also a bit frustrating that they chose to call the type ‘Set’. I understand it is more reflective of a true, mathematical set but for me, I was too used to using the word ‘set’ for a type of list in this context. However, I will say it forced me to get used to passing functions around, which I guess is the point of this course. 

  • Week 5 – Collections: Anagrams – This was the reason I nearly fell at the last hurdle. I did not want to go back and complete the last exercise to this. So much so, a day or so before my sessions deadline, I submitted it without it. Thankfully, I graded high enough without it, but this just shows how much I disliked it. For anyone who is wondering, it was the sentence anagram function. And I never want to go back.

Good luck to those of you who are still working through it!

Sofia x

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