As a teenager, I was thrilled about getting a summer job as an inventory clerk. It paid $14 an hour (which was double the minimum wage at the time) plus paid travel time to job sites! I no longer had to hustle for commission like my previous job selling phones and gadgets at the mall. But I quickly realized that the job came at the cost of my sanity as it involved manually counting stock for eight hours a day. Needless to say, I didn’t last long at this job. However, it did give me one important insight – manual, repetitive and monotonous work was a dying trade, and it wasn’t just me who didn’t want to keep doing it.
Although I am no longer counting inventory (usually), I have sought other ways to automate as many of my mundane tasks as possible. For those who have similar feelings towards the boring, I recommend that you check out Python. Python is a widely popular programming language developed in the 1980s that is used extensively by software developers of differing expertise across many settings. It is designed to be comparatively easy to learn while being robust enough to handle bigger tasks like machine learning and complex data analysis. Large companies like YouTube, Facebook, Reddit and IBM heavily employ Python in their work, as do many smaller businesses.
Python is not in the exclusive domain of software developers or programmers. As non-programmer physicians, our needs don’t necessarily involve complex algorithms or analysis, so a computer science degree is not a pre-requisite to starting to program. However, Python is a sneaky way to start to learn the ins-and-outs of coding logic with a side bonus of making our lives a little bit easier. With only a half day of work and a YouTube video, I was able to code a simple automated login sequence on my computer that automatically logged into my calendar to check my work schedule; saving me a few mundane steps that I would rather avoid.
Python’s website hosts a fairly robust guide to getting started for non-programmers and those with some programming knowledge. Anyone can learn Python regardless of background, education or age, but the secret is to realize that you do not need to know everything about programming. The ever popular Automate the Boring Stuff with Python: Practical Programming for Total Beginners by software developer/author Al Sweigart accentuates this philosophy of practicality and simplicity. Best of all, the author has made it freely available at the website above to encourage more people to learn how to program.