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Should you learn to code? Part I

Opportunities for software developer

Business Week, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and other major publications have recently published articles on how non-IT professionals who learn to code are more employable.

I especially recommend the Business Week short book length article by Paul Ford ( in their June 11 edition, already considered an absolute ‘must read’ for novices who want to get a feel for what coding is. The online version of the article is wonderful because it incorporates fun, interactive graphics with an application exercise at the end.

A college degree no longer guarantees a job

It only takes computers seconds to learn and transfer to permanent memory what carbon-based life forms like us learn in high school and college (with most folks retaining only about 2-3% of that information to long-term memory). Also very concerning–Artificial Intelligence (AI)-supported technologies are already encroaching on white-collar jobs.

As mentioned in a previous OWDT blog article, some universities are slowly moving towards cross-departmental curricula that focus on real world interpretive and entrepreneurial skills for liberal arts majors. This pivots on the assumption that computers lack the creative capacity to compete against us in those areas. Keep in mind, however, that as AI breakthroughs continue, the distinction between digital and human abilities will require continual reevaluation to determine which career paths remain viable.

Coding boot camps

Following the dot-com bubble in the early 2000s, opportunities for software developers, engineers and digital scientists held up surprisingly well. The much hotter current IT professional market is especially promising for those with cloud computing, mobile app and data analytic skills.

The New York Times recently ran a story about how millennials stuck in dead end jobs are moving from $20K to $100K a year jobs after learning to code. There are over 30 reputable (3 +/- months-long) coding boot camps across the country, most of which are located in cities like San Francisco, New York and Seattle. The White House’s TechHire Initiative has helped coordinate federal, city, corporate and educational efforts to provide this training–typically for post-graduates (or those with some college) in their late 20s and early 30s. The cost? Typically $10K+, often supported by scholarships and/or loans. Strong analytical aptitude is the primary requisite. –One promising development is the higher representation of women in these certification programs (35% as opposed to only 18% from four-year university programs.

In Part II of this blog, I’ll share links to online platforms that provide initial exposure to ‘recreational programming’ for the uninitiated. I’ll also provide a quick overview of coding boot camp programs for those of you who think you’d like to be a ‘techie retread.’



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