18 Jan
  • By John R. Nocero

Cracking The Code

Okay, here’s a secret. It’s juicy so keep it under wraps. Don’t go tweeting it or posted it on your Facebook feed. Don’t share it on Snapchat and for goodness sake’s don’t put it on Tinder. Only my wife and my son know about it. Ready? Here goes: I have always wanted to learn how to code. It’s true. When I was in 7th grade, I asked for a membership to my local weightlifting club. I was a football player and I thought lifting weights would make me stronger on the field. My mother said she would purchase it for me on one condition. Unbeknownst to me, she had signed me up for a computer class that summer at one of the local high schools. She thought that I would enjoy it and maybe meet some new friends. At the time, I thought, how silly, I would rather lift weights than be in school – in the summer no less! – but I wanted the membership and got into the class, and I tell you, I immediately was fascinated. I still remember the teacher’s name – Dr. Patrick Songster – I am sure he has long forgotten about me, but I still remember writing computer programs to get words and pictures to appear on the screen. Thinking back, computer graphics capabilities were in their infancy, compared to the graphics of today, mind you, but to have the ability to be able to write computer language and have it show up on the screen mesmerized me.

I am a process-oriented guy, and always have been. I have always enjoyed learning how things work and computers were no exception. Maybe because that class was the first time I got a chance to sit in front of a computer and see how things worked. From there, I always wondered and was asking about the operational capabilities behind the machine itself. Not just with pictures, but also in clinical research, where I have worked for the last 15 years. The research process is one of systematic investigation. It involves development, testing and evaluation designed to contribute to generalizable knowledge to describe, explain, predict or control an observed phenomenon. The research process itself – is 8 steps – another code, you might say: 1) identify the problem and develop the research question; 2) conduct a literature review to learn more about the topic; 3) clarify the problem; 4) define the terms; 5) define the population; 6) develop the study protocol – who are the participants and how, when and where the data will be collected) 7) collect data; 8) analyze the data and answer the question.

To me, the data integrity piece is key, because without clean data, you cannot fully answer your question. You need to make sure of your completeness and accuracy of your source data, and ensure it adheres to basic generalizable standards. It is known as ALCOA PLUS (another code, that’s three, three codes, ah ah ah). Add in relational databases and getting systems to “talk,” and you might say I have worked in code since my career in research started. But I never learned to code, at least until now.

So, you might ask, what changed? Well for starters, 2019 to me is a focus on what I want to do, not only with my career, but also what I enjoy. I have put coding off for far too long. So my wife and I were talking on New Year’s Eve and she asked me if I had any additional goals this year, I told her about my coding desire, she encouraged me to go for it. Shortly thereafter, I was on LinkedIn and saw that Code Ladder was looking for a blogger to write about coding. So let me get this straight, I get a chance to write, which I love, learn to code, which I have wanted to do, and connect with the wonderful people, leaders and students here working with Code Ladder?? Sign me up? You bet!

So this begins my latest adventure, and one that I am amazingly grateful for. Looking forward to sharing my adventure with you, and cracking the code, together.


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