Should everyone learn code image

Should everyone learn code?

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After I finished my last post, 7 reasons why I learnt to code, I began asking the question “should everyone learn?”. Is this really the hot new skill that will change your life? Do you need it to stay relevant in the job market? And is it absolutely vital that our children have this ability for the world they are about to build? Well, here’s just a few of my thoughts.

Just to give you a bit of background…

It is no big secret that in recent years there has been a big focus on learning to code. Governments, business, even you next door neighbors may be spouting this message.

For kids, the opportunities are already here, thanks to the drive of non-profit organizations such as code.org. Coding has even become part of the UK’s national curriculum!

But don’t worry, it’s not just kids who get all the fun, already existing adults, like myself, who missed out on this wave have the opportunities to learn online.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of coding boot camps popping up. Plus, websites like CodecademyTreehouse, and FreeCodeCamp which are all designed to teach you this valuable skill.

A godsend for those who are really passionate about learning to program!

entrepreneur programmer image

But why is there such a focus on learning code?

In my opinion, the big push comes down to two factors, economic and public perception.

You can’t move without hearing a bunch of stats on the growing skills gap in the tech industry. Even just last year here in the UK the gap was highlighted further in the 2016 UK Digital Skills Economy report. I know, absolutely riveting stuff!

There also seems to be a strong perception that in the future we will be living in a tech utopia, where technology and software are so entrenched in everything we do, that surely it is only logical that everyone will need to learn code.

This could be a welcoming image for people who love tech, love coding, and love sci-fi. But for those who are not so keen, the idea of a future world of coders may be daunting.

So let’s get back to the question, should everyone learn code?

Me, I am torn!

This question is tricky. On the one hand, I do think it’s a great skill that teaches you so much more than building apps.

As Steve Jobs once said, “Everyone should learn how to code because it teaches you how to think”, and I agree with that. This is one reason why I was happy when coding becomes part of the UK national curriculum.

However, I don’t agree with the idea that writing software will be an essential skill for the future workforce. I still see writing code as something specialist rather than for the masses.

I want to dive a bit deeper into both these sides, but first, let me tell you where I stand.

NO, I DON’T think “EVERYONE” should learn CODEStudying programming image

People learn code for different reasons. They may learn because of:

  • Personal interest
  • Career change
  • Self improvement
  • Higher income

These are just a few, which are all good valid reasons, and if you want to learn code go for it! Don’t let anyone stop you. But if you take one thing away from this post I want it to be this.

Don’t feel like you HAVE to learn because you are being told to. Or, that if you don’t learn, you will be left behind in the modern world.

There are loads of people who are just are not interested, and that’s fine. Everyone has different skills sets and passions, which are all valuable. People have made it this far using each other’s skills and strengths, and I doubt that model will change.

Personally, I don’t foresee a world where writing a few lines of code becomes as common as writing an email or word document.

PERSONAL ADVICE:

Pursue your passion, whether that’s learning code, art, writing, or building a family. Pursuing your passions will lead to greater feelings of fulfillment. Remember, everyone has something to offer.

So why is learning code NOT essential for the future workforce?Space X Rocket image

As I mentioned earlier, there is an idea that the future will hold a much greater focus on software. Therefore, it is only logical to think that jobs will reflect this. And, to be honest…I agreed with this!

But who says software will have to be written in traditional code?

If the skills gap in software development is really that bad and grows faster than we can churn out programmers, would it not make more sense to develop tools that we can use to whip up software?

There are already drag and drop tools for building simple websites and even apps. If we continue down this path we could be using drag and drop interfaces to build more complex software, or the at the very least, the basic structure. Then all the coding wizardry could be left to specialized programmers.

Another option is to make the act of writing code more user-friendly so it feels more like writing a set of instructions in English.

To paraphrase Bill Gates; “one day in the future all we will have to do is tell the computer in plain English what we want, and it will figure out what we need and write the code. With the rise of AI and Machine Learning, this may be possible in the future”.

If these were legitimate options would everyone really need to be able to write code?

It is very labor intensive learning code, believe me, and generally, to actually build software there is not just one thing you need to know! This actually brings me to another point.

Software development is a specialism. You don’t just learn code

The idea that just learning code enables you to automatically build any website or application you want is wrong. To be honest, years ago, before my programming days, I thought the same.

Programmers are a bit like handymen, to build something like a website you essentially need a toolbox. You have your HTML for the basic structure and layout, CSS to make things look pretty, JavaScript to make it do cool things, and PHP for your back-end data stuff (there are tons more but you get the point).

The other issue is that these programming languages are always being updated! Every year or so a new framework comes out or there’s a new language to learn. In essence, today’s programmers have to be constant STUDENTS.

However, it is true that once you learn a language it does become easier to other languages. But it’s still work trying to stay up to date.

So if you are planning to add “can code” to your CV in hopes it will open you up to a broad scope of future programming jobs I wouldn’t bother. You will get better results from specializing in an area of software development, like IOS apps or back-end web development, then learning all the tools you need for the job. You could even specialize further with Javascript frameworks like Angular and React.

PERSONAL ADVICE:

If you are looking to get into software development it is strongly advised to pick an area and specialize. Specializing will make you stand out, limit your competition and make you more valuable. This is something that has been drummed into me throughout my learning journey.

But doesn’t it teach you how to think?

At the start of this post, I mentioned Steve Jobs famous quote, which I wholly agree with. Really thinking about it, you don’t have to learn code for the sole reason of becoming a programmer.

If you want to challenge yourself or become a better problem solver, learning code is a great option. It teaches critical thinking and how to break down problems and find simple solutions.

I mentioned it’s maybe not wise to put “can code” on your CV, but you can defiantly add “great at problem-solving…”.

Learning to code does develop some great skills which can carry over into other areas. But you don’t have to learn code just for professional development. It’s also fun!…Well, that’s my opinion.

What about the kids!Child learning image

While I don’t think every adult needs to learn code, or even that the act of writing code will be a vital skill in future. I do, however, believe every child should have the opportunity to learn. The cliche, “children are our future” is right. Therefore, they need to be given every opportunity in life.

Although, rather than trying to create a generation of software developers, I feel it is more important to focus on the principles programming teaches and the skills it develops.

Schools are not designed to make us masters in every field, but open our eyes to subjects that excite us. Obviously, you’re meant to gain knowledge, that’s a given!

All children don’t attend Art classes because they are expected to become artists. But these subject provide valuable underlining skills. In the case of Art it develops creativity, and in Programming, it’s logic and problem-solving.

Personally, I really wish that I had the opportunity to learn code in school. Maybe I wouldn’t have spent years dossing and trying to figure things out.

Summary

So what’s the overall message here? Well, I just wanted to give my two pence worth and challenge the view that code is the new literacy. Also, maybe provide some reassurance to anyone who feels they “SHOULD” learn code.

I have no doubt that it’s a valuable skill for anyone to learn because it does change the way you address problems. It can also open up doors to a new career and multiple opportunities. You just have to look back at the stats to see the demand.

Although, in my opinion, it’s not the ultimate skill that everyone will need for the future. Writing code is, and I suspect will still be a specialist skill. Therefore if you have no desire to learn then simple, you shouldn’t. Why pursue something you don’t want to do? Just do what makes you happy and follow your passions.

But of course, if learning code is something you want to do then give it a shot! There are plenty of opportunities for those keen to learn and specialize. Even if developing software becomes very user-friendly they will still be higher levels where specialists are needed.

Thanks for reading.

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About the Author Owen

Creator of Code Dad, father and self-taught programmer. My mission is to balance life, work, family, all while learning to code, and hopefully help others who want to do the same.

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