I mentioned in the The Data Science Sabbatical that self-learning has somewhat polarizing strengths and weaknesses.  On the one hand, you have total control over when, how and how much you learn (about anything).  On the other hand, the sheer volume of information available today, combined with the fact that the only person holding you accountable is well…you, makes things complicated.  

So how do you get going?  Here are some ideas that should help:

  1. Do an (honest) inventory of your skills: Again, since you’ll be holding yourself accountable, you’ll want to clearly define a baseline to start from.  While there’s no reason to lie to yourself, people do it all the time.  Sure, go ahead and identify what you don’t do so well right now–but be sure to acknowledge where you’re awesome as well!
  2. Write down Must-Have and Stretch Goals:  To build on #1, once you know where you’d like to grow, I recommend actually writing down your goals.  Your sabbatical might seem like a lot of time at the beginning but it will fly by–fast!  If you are up front about what you absolutely, positively want to accomplish before hand you’re sure to be happy with your results.  If you manage to go faster–cool, reach for the stars with those stretch goals!
  3. Create a List of People who can serve as Guest Professors in your course of study: This is important!  You’ll be spending alot of time alone in front of a computer (or notebook) during your study, but that’s probably not enough to really tie every single concept together.  Take a page out of the traditional brick and mortar University playbook and schedule some time to learn from some masters the field.  I’m not talking about trying to get ahold of @DJPatil, it can be anyone that can help you grow (coworkers, current/former professors etc..).
  4.  Build a Curriculum (use a university curriculum as an template…Trust me they’re better at organizing learning than you are): I’ll show you what mine looks like in a future post.
  5. Take care of your yourself.  Mediate. Run, swim, do yoga–whatever!  Learning is physically taxing when you have years to do it…Take it from a Marine: you’ll never make it through any bootcamp experience if you don’t take care of mind body and spirt first.


  • Also be sure to take advantage of sales on classes, books, co-working spaces!  Education should be free for everyone, but since it’s not at least try to make it cheap :).

P.S. If you do know DJ Patil and can get him to do office hours with you, can I come