headshot of Python instructor Alayna C Myrick

Instructor Spotlight: Alayna C. Myrick

Alayna C. Myrick is a senior data scientist at Verana Health and an instructor in UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education’s Python for Data Science, Web and Core Programming Professional Concentration. She has witnessed the rising popularity of the Python programming language in the technical community and in non-technical spaces such as HR and general project management.

The Power of Python

“Python, unlike other programming languages, is designed to be intuitive to individuals, regardless of technical background,” says Myrick. “This means Python has the potential to further close the gap between technical positions and non-technical positions.” She believes that as Python gains popularity across industries, it will quickly become the primary language used for tasks like software development and data processing. “Due to its accessibility, I firmly believe that, when applicable, moving toward Python as a primary language will allow greater accessibility to technical positions.” 

For Myrick, Python is important because it can increase productivity and offers a one-stop shop for many programming uses that previously required experience in multiple languages. “This aspect of Python, coupled with its intuitive design, makes building computer programs more accessible to individuals regardless of educational background or experience.”

“Teaching is more than having students regurgitate lesson plans. Teaching, to me, is about having a positive impact on a student’s self-development journey.” 

According to Myrick, learning Python can open doors to a wealth of career opportunities across industries, including health care, technology, retail and finance. She also stresses that it can help students in their personal lives as well. “From building statistical models, designing intuitive data-driven visualizations, to automation of formatting and base calculations for a report, Python has the capability to help students solve problems and make wise decisions in their everyday lives and allow them to become pioneers in today’s workforce,” she explains.

Turning Abstract Concepts into Real-World Applications

In the classroom, Myrick connects what she’s teaching to her students’ interests to help them form a greater appreciation and understanding of the material. She also emphasizes hands-on learning with practical applications and believes that connecting new concepts to those that students already know and use in their everyday lives is most valuable. “I teach to strengthen these pathways and help people learn how to effectively incorporate new tools and concepts into the subject areas they are passionate about,” she says. Her courses often include hands-on assignments and troubleshooting sessions that help students build skills to solve current and future problems.

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Myrick’s goal for her students is to gain an understanding of the logic behind potential processes that can be used to accomplish their goals. “Knowing a programming language is not about having every command or syntax structure memorized. The little details can be Googled,” she says. “Knowing what is possible and the approach or logic is more important than syntax.”

In her course Python for Data Analysis, Myrick wants students to walk away with the confidence and knowledge of how to use Python as a tool in their data processing journey. “I want them to be capable of vetting appropriate approaches and have the ability to translate their outputs into actionable insights.”

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