Should you learn to code? Part II

Difference between recreational and professional coding

Did you have a chance to read Paul Ford’s Business Week article “What Is Code?” If so, can you now imagine overseeing a high-stakes redesign of your website? No? That’s OK, because it’s so much safer to let us at OWDT do it for you. Even if you’re a highly skilled programmer, that kind of challenge is best met by a team of IT professionals.

You don’t have to read Ford’s Business Week article to get a feel for coding basics (or to get a sense of whether you have the aptitude required to be a programmer). Instead, check out online resources like the introductory programming tutorials found on Codecademy, W3schools, Khan Academy, and Coursera.

There’s a world of difference between recreational and professional coding. However, because both coding and mathematics are universal languages, success in life and work is increasingly contingent not only on having basic math skills, but also on an understanding of coding fundamentals. Especially if you’re a manager, you don’t want to risk being like the clueless pointy-haired Dilbert boss when confronted by IT issues.

Coding skills sharpen enhance critical thinking

Steve Jobs once said, “I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.” Good coding is an iterative process that allows us to test ideas and solve problems, similar to the trial and error process of doing scientific research or writing a flawless instructional guide. The Precision Question/Answer decision-making method described in recent OWDT blogs reinforces this mindset.

When I worked in an aerospace IT environment for nine years as a writer/trainer, I observed that the programmers I worked with were (1) highly detail-oriented, (2) could hold multiple variables in mind at the same time, and (3) had strong analytic and math abilities. Two of the best coders I knew were former high school math teachers.

Software runs everything

“If coders don’t run the world, they run the things that run the world.” Software seamlessly manages systems and data we rely on for virtually everything in our work and personal lives. For starters, it governs our infrastructure, communication venues, financial systems and automates an increasing percentage of jobs.
Bringing any idea to life requires new software. To create the necessary new code, you need to be able to ask programmers the right questions to determine (1) their qualifications and (2) their digital strategy for fulfilling your vision.

In Part III the concluding segment of this article, I’ll discuss more about why coding isn’t for everyone, why it requires an artistic/craft sensibility and make some coding boot camp recommendations.


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