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Should you learn to code? Part III

One in ten schools now require introduction to coding

In previous posts in this series, I explained how coding has joined mathematics as an indispensable universal language. Kids in the eight European nations, New Zealand and Singapore now include coding in their elementary and secondary school curricula. In the U.S., one in ten schools now require introduction to coding coursework. In many other countries and U.S. localities, after-school coding programs are rapidly growing in popularity.

Children who discover they love it may be getting a preview of their future career. Though most will eventually choose other paths, they’ll benefit later in life by having a baseline understanding of this critical ‘lingua franca.’

In fact, companies prefer to hire non-IT employees who are familiar with coding. Why? They know that such candidates will be better able to understand inevitable IT challenges and, in addition, offer demonstrated problem-solving and critical thinking skills that transfer directly to other responsibilities.

Prerequisites and challenges

Candidates with the required skills can launch IT careers noted for good pay, excellent benefits and high morale. However, full-time coding definitely isn’t for everyone.

Do the following resonate for you?
  • As a full-time coder, you’ll need to enjoy ‘thinking’ like a computer to navigate the digital domain. Paradoxically, the best programmers have an artistic sensibility to complement their digital skills.
  • Choosing to become a full-time coder requires a serious love of and commitment to the work. You need to think abstractly about big picture software functions while being able to easily shift focus to catch small scripting mistakes to prevent them from cascading into implementation failures.
  • Coding demands continual learning and constant practice. Successful coders thrive on the intensity of resolving complex, multiple challenges every day. When promoted to management or otherwise diverted from the demands of the craft, coding skills can quickly deteriorate and/or become outdated. Regardless, without continual practice, you are no longer hirable without updating your certifications and/or learning new languages, perhaps as part of a state-sponsored career transition program or on your own dime.
  • No matter how attentive to detail you are, most code requires continual testing and debugging. Fatal software errors can be deeply embedded and virtually invisible. You need to be able to deal with the multiple failures that pave the path to eventual resolution. For these and many other reasons, programming can be stressful.
  • There are over 1,700 different programming languages, so you’ll need to make choices about which among them you want to master. How to choose? After doing comprehensive research, select which among them are the most marketable in organizations you are want to work for.
  • For IT managers, laying out priorities and establishing a division of labor in updating program frameworks, or creating entirely new software, requires that you develop a close rapport with and understanding of each staff member’s level of ability on different tasks.

In Part IV, the last installment in this series, I’ll provide a list of commonly recommended coding boot camps for those interested in a total immersion experience.

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