Why everyone should learn to code

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If you follow the Scout or my personal social media accounts, you’ll know that I recently took part in a 10-day coding bootcamp in Bali with The Institute of Code

It was f*&king awesome.

Personally, it was my ideal combination of professional development, travel and relaxation, giving me some much-needed downtime while simultaneously upskilling.

I could bang on all day about the unique experience, and the innovative strategy that has gone into the program to deliver an effective accelerated and immersive learning environment, but what I want to focus on right now is why everyone should learn to code.

You had me at <!DOCTYPE>*

I have always been technically inclined.

As a child, I wanted to be a scientist, and was often conducting various experiments, trying to understand how things worked.

This interest and habit has continued throughout my career, and was likely responsible for my evolution from graphic designer to digital strategist.

Once I set foot in the digital world, I was fortunate to be surrounded by experienced and helpful developers who answered my annoying questions, and taught me bits and pieces that allowed me to edit websites, troubleshoot site issues, manage hosting and domains, and even build and deploy full WordPress.org websites all by myself.

I’ve tinkered in HTML for years, and thought I was pretty good.

Despite this, I realised that it would be beneficial to take a step back, and learn HTML, CSS and Javascript from the ground up at the 10-day coding bootcamp.

Many of us never had the chance to learn coding at school (myself included)

I figured that it would also help me come up to speed with the generations that are fortunate enough to be learning coding at school.

While I like to think that I’m not that old, I was taught touch typing in high school (a very useful skill I must add), however our “computing” classes consisted predomindantly of creating and saving Word documents, and I never used the Internet for any high school project or activity.

I am incredibly jealous of the technological education opportunities available for today’s primary and high school students, and while I know not all of them appreciate it, I really hope they make use of it.

Coding is simply a set of essential languages in our fast-evolving technological world

What cemented the decision for me to go, was a quote from Tina May, co-founder of The Institute of Code:

We don't all learn maths to become mathematicians. ~ Tina May @instituteofcode Click to Tweet

Numeracy and literacy are necessary life skills – that can be used at different scales and for different uses – but they all need the same basic level of understanding.

As Tina also reminded us during our bootcamp, coding is simply another group of languages (HTML, CSS, Javascript etc).

And in today’s global, multilingual and technological world, it just makes sense to have a basic understanding of the languages that are used to create websites, apps and other technologies that millions of people use every day!

It helps develop respect and appreciate the insane skills of coders, developers and programmers

Like I said, before starting the coding bootcamp, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of coding, and already had a good appreciation for developers.

After only a couple of days, I realised there was SO MUCH I DID NOT KNOW and I now have an EVEN GREATER APPRECIATION FOR DEVELOPERS!

We take so much of technology for granted.

Things that look simple, and work well, usually have A LOT of smarts behind them…

And there is a lot that goes into making something “just do this” or “just look like that” etc.

Unfortunately I think this lack of appreciation for the skills and time it takes to code will continue, but having a basic understanding of what goes in to making things just work, would help foster respect.

I recall the same issues of demonstrating expertise when working in graphic design.

There is something that is very difficult to explain about “virtual” design and development skills and tasks, versus “physical” design and development skills and tasks.

Our society has a greater level of understanding and respect for people who design and create REAL things, like architects and builders, and for those who work in practical trades such as electricians and plumbers. And these are incredibly important jobs. But for some reason, we don’t seem to have the same appreciation and understanding of those who design and build virtual platforms, like websites, apps, and online networks and systems etc.

The complexities for coding and development are growing exponentially as apps and websites need to work across different browsers, different devices, and different software versions on these different browsers and devices!

While there is a huge amount of skill, though and expertise that goes into designing and building a multi-storey structure, imagine if it simultaneously had to perform the same on a sandy soil, rocky cliff, centre of a busy city etc!?

While we don’t all learn maths to become mathematicians, we don’t all have to learn code to become fulltime coders, but it would help us to appreciate the skills of those who do specialise it it.

It improves communication with developers

One of the suggestions that the Institute of Code offers for who should attend their coding bootcamps, are “people responsible for working with, or managing developers”.

This is a target audience that I hadn’t considered, despite being someone who does work with and manage developers!

Like so much of the Institute of Code’s approach; it just makes so much frigging sense.

Leading on from the above reason about respecting and appreciating the abilities of developers, having a basic understanding of coding dramatically improves communication with developers.

I have been fortunate to work with some incredibly patient and helpful developers, and have first hand experience with the ways in which our conversations, briefing, brainstorming, problem solving, trouble shooting and more, have been improved by my having a little bit of knowledge.

It is also incredibly useful at making developers accountable, by being able to ask poignant questions, and work through options, rather than a general “can this be done?” and accepting the answer as gospel.

Credit: Above image courtesy of my course-buddy, Michael from Time Travel Turtle.

It improves general problem solving skills

I strongly believe that any new skill helps develop the way your brain works and thinks.

Whether it is a sport or activity, language or craft.

It forces you to think in different ways, making new connections that can help in seemingly unrelated areas.

From my little bit of research… when we are learning a new skill, the neurons (and other parts of our brain) work hard, but then overtime, as we grasp it, they slow down again, becoming lazy as the task or skill becomes more automated.

Continued learning continues to stimulate our brain, strengthening and growing it.

…when new skills are learned, the amount of myelin insulating an axon increases.

This happens as the size of individual glial cells increases. New glial cells also may be added to bare axons.

These changes improve the ability of a neuron to signal.

And that leads to better learning.

Source: Science News For Students; Learning Rewires The Brain

I don’t have a specific example yet, but I have confidence that this new skill will surprise me in how it will assist with other areas of my personal and professional life.

It’s future-proofing careers

It’s no surprise that with our ever-increasing reliance on technology, the need for skilled people to continue to help manage, develop and create it increases.

We have all seen and heard the statistics about the quantity of jobs that will be required in the future that don’t exist now, and I am living proof of that.

I have been working in this field for nearly 10 years, and it wasn’t even considered a career option when I finished university 15 years ago.

So rather than wait until it becomes a necessity, why not add it to your repertoire now?

We are in a fortunate time where it is possible to undertake an intensive and formal degree or course in coding, or a short bootcamp like I did with The Institute of Code, or even make use of online courses and self-learning resources (some free, or very affordable) such as those from Lynda or eduCBA (with an awesome short-term deal from The Next Web available right now if I might add).

The below stats are taken from Season 1, Episode 5 of Small Business Secrets on SBS (my current fave TV show), and powerfully demonstrate the growing need.

Beyond this future growth though, I see the advantage in my own field for marketers who can add HTML and CSS to their skill set, and it is becoming more common to see this listed as a desired skill in marketing job position descriptions.

It’s freaking fun!

Perhaps it takes a certain type of quizzical person who has a natural inclination to understand how things work, and be able to make them work themselves, but it’s SO MUCH FUN to finally understand why and how web technologies behave the way they do, and how to create and edit them.

Everyone in our group took immense pride in our own websites (which we presented to the full group on the final day of our bootcamp) and even throughout the course, shared our excitement and small wins of the cool tricks we picked up (even though some may be considered “not cool” in today’s online world 😉 ).

In conclusion…

I am super confident that we can all benefit from an increased understanding of what goes on behind the scenes to allow us to display content in this format.

If you have ever had any desire to find out, I strongly encourage you to take that next step, and learn one of these new languages.

You won’t regret it.

 

Please note: While I was the recipient of a slight discount scholarship for the course (which I applied for) I paid for the remainder of my course, flights and all other costs. This blog post is not endorsed by or affiliated with Institute of Code. It is my genuine opinion.

 

*Shout out to Laura for this gem!

 

Feature photo credit: the incredible Nilu

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4 Comments

  1. americanlamboard.com 1 March, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    By learning how to do basic programming people will be learning effective ways to solve problems that they come up against like the article says. This is why I fully believe that we should be teaching all children how to write computer programs and really wish that when I was in school I had gotten the exposure to programming that is available to children today.

    Reply
    1. Top Scout 2 March, 2017 at 9:23 am

      I’m with you! It would have been great to have those opportunities whilst at school, but for those of us who didn’t, it’s time to catch up now.

      Reply
  2. Claudette 2 March, 2017 at 8:02 am

    You sound like your in my generations or perhaps slightly younger. There was no computers in my school when I went to HS. I love this generation of technology and completed my Cert IV in web technologies being 43. Cert III in IT at 41. Soon to do my Diploma I’m in social media. Maybe I was born too early.

    Reply
    1. Top Scout 2 March, 2017 at 9:22 am

      That’s awesome Claudette! It wasn’t an aspect of the topic I addressed, but I honestly believe that this skill is not generation specific. While the younger generations have greater access to learning to code in school, it is relevant to a diverse workforce. You’re taking control of your opportunities. I think you were born at just the right time!

      Reply

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