Since fall 2018, Alexander Hess, a doctoral student at Professor Dr. Stefan Spinler’s Chair of Logistics Management, has been teaching the optional course "Introduction to Python and Programming" at WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management. In this interview, he reports on a steadily increasing interest amongst students and the many advantages Python has to offer.
It was the students themselves who gave the initial impulse for the coding course. As Hess recalls, the student club Business Meets Tech – WHU’s Tech Initiative organized an event in July 2018 at which all chairs were invited to discuss possible digitization courses. He was one of those who wanted to take part, Hess says. In the beginning, the students did not explicitly ask for a Python course, but rather looked for an alternative to a classic Excel spreadsheet, whereupon he developed a concept for the new lecture series in the subsequent months.
Hess himself mastered Python in self-study. In 2014, he founded a start-up but encountered a crucial problem: "We couldn't find any programmers," he remembers. For this reason, Hess decided to pull out of the operational business for three months to acquire the Python skills that would help the young company grow. After he succeeded in this and left the start-up sometime later, Hess is now a doctoral student at WHU and passes on his knowledge to students.
At the beginning of a new lecture series, it is important for him to create a clear distinction: "When does programming start and until when is it statistics? In addition to providing a better differentiation, this would also show the students the first connections between a programming language and business studies. According to Hess, it is nowadays essential for almost everyone to learn programming languages like Python. If he had his way, this should even be done at school in order to create contact points early on and secure Germany's digital future.
Especially for business students, the skillful use of Python offers many advantages: Python would be much easier to understand compared to a classic Excel spreadsheet. "When you look at Python, it reads like an instruction on what needs to be done," enthuses Hess. The programming language would be very intuitively structured, Excel rather "hard to read" and often unclear, especially due to its cell references. In addition, Python would be able to process much larger amounts of data than other programs.
Hess' motto is therefore to broaden one's perspective and to choose new approaches. Even if he could learn so much in the Python world alone that this would keep him busy "until retirement," the advantages of programming languages would clearly outweigh the disadvantages. And if the word Python still makes you think of a snake? Hess smiles and says, "Just take a look at my class."
Alexander Hess makes his entire lecture series available for self-study on YouTube