By: James Walker
Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer…because it teaches you how to think. -Steve Jobs
Did you learn how to code in school? Did you ever take an intro to programming, computer science, or web development?
Chances are, if your field of study wasn’t tech-related, you probably don’t know much about coding at all. “But why would I need to know?” you might ask. “Isn’t coding just for computer programmers and software developers?”
To many, “coding” connotes a complicated and unreadable waterfall of computer hieroglyphics (maybe all those computers from “The Matrix” come to mind). Why would that be useful to me, you wonder? I’m involved in the business/marketing/filmmaking/medical industry – why do I need to learn “code?”
That mindset is the reason why only about 1 in 10 students in America are learning to code. Developing and programming are not skill sets that are widely recognized to be integral to any job other than those in the technology industry…yet.
Makinde Adeagbo, an early Facebook engineer, states that coding is “more about the process of breaking down problems than building complicated algorithms, as people traditionally think about it.”
During our years of learning in school, we were taught a lot of skills – how to write, how to read, how to solve problems, how to think. At times, the thought of solving a particular problem or reaching an intellectual level seemed baffling and impossible, yet time and time again, we found ourselves at another learning plateau.
Coding is no different. It’s a skill that you can learn, just like you did with any other essential tool that you’ve added to your intellectual arsenal over the years.
If the thought of learning how to code has ever crossed your mind (more likely it hasn’t, but that’s alright), good news: the current climate for programmers in America couldn’t be better.
“Our policy is literally to hire as many talented engineers as we can find,” stated Mark Zuckerburg, CEO of Facebook; “The whole limit in the system is that there’s just not enough people that are trained and have these skills today.”
So many of the world’s most prominent leaders of technology and social media – Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Dropbox’s Drew Houston, Microsoft’s Bill Gates – need talented coders and programmers, and anyone can become one. You can start exactly where they did: making shapes, changing colors, writing ‘hello world’ into a computer screen.
These thought-leaders didn’t begin coding wanting to understand all of computer science. It was a process, and eventually things began to take form: shapes became a game of tic-tac-toe, colors become layouts, letters became paragraphs.
When I first entered the world of coding when I was young, I was just exploring – I had no idea what I could do. My first experiences with codes involved making things like a red box or a green circle appear on my screen. That was it – no designing websites or crazy acronyms like HTML or PHP.
It was like learning to read. I started with small words, like C-A-T and D-O-G. If you had asked me what “onomatopoeia” meant, I probably would have blinked and stared blankly at you. Now, I’m a professional developer and programmer for an application development company.
You don’t have to be a genius to know how to code; you just need to be determined. Addition, subtraction, and multiplication tables – that’s all you really need to know to start. Not only is code very math based, but also similar in the way that its based on building blocks. You start simple and absorb as much knowledge as possible until all of a sudden any application is possible, kind of like working your way up to long division.
Once you realize that software, computers, and coding isn’t so much about “tech” as is it about helping humanity, helping people interact better with technology, that’s when you’ll really begin to realize why coding is for everybody.
James Walker is the Development Community Manager at Injekt, an open platform for third party app developers. An avid designer and coder since he was 12, James writes and curates topics on both basic web development and advanced languages with a particular focus on mobile. Connect with James on Twitter and Google+.