It’s hard to escape stories about the importance of teaching kids to code. It’s not just for the younger generations though, and adults shouldn’t dismiss it, even if it’s a career change, because there are some incredible perks to learning such a highly valued skill.
Plus, though computers have always made things easier or have done difficult tasks more quickly than humans ever could, there’s a whole new frontier of software heading your way that combines Artificial Intelligence (AI) with Machine Learning (ML) and it’s going to mean the automation of all sorts of routine jobs: truck & taxi drivers, retail and sales, pharmacists, bartenders and even teachers, to name just a few (check out the Qihan Sanbot that we saw at IFA the other week). The outlook is pretty dismal for a lot of people across a lot of different industries, and up to 50% of all jobs currently performed by people are predicted to be taken over by robots in the next 20 years.
Technology changes at such a rapid pace in this industry and becoming literate in code will soon become as essential as being literate in language and mathematics. And even if your career isn’t in immediate jeopardy, according to the UK government’s National Career Service, starting salaries for computer programmers in the games industry start at around £25,000, rising to £50,000 with more experience and responsibility, so it’s not a bad skill to master. It’s one of the smartest things you can do right now.
How a few weeks could change your life
The demand for coders is incredibly high, especially women, and there aren’t enough programmers to keep up with demand. There are 607,708 open computing jobs in the US alone, according to Code.org, but only 42,969 students graduated in computer science. In the famous Lost Interview, Steve Jobs said, “I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.” Coding isn’t particularly easy to learn, especially as an adult, but that’s exactly why it’s so valuable – because it requires mastery of a problem-solving skill known as computational thinking, which does not come naturally and is tougher to drum in during adulthood. Computational thinking enables you to deal with complex problems of all scales and sizes in the most efficient ways; it’s the process of breaking down a task into a logical sequence of smaller steps, discarding redundant elements, diagnosing errors and creating new approaches when the first inevitably fails.
The benefits? Take your pick. Ever catch yourself doing the same task over and over again? Chances are you can get a computer to do it for you if you know how to code and you’ll be amazed at the time you can save once you know how to program a computer. That Steve Jobs quote isn’t just hyperbole; learning to code does teach you how to think about problems, and how to properly visualize complex structures, and knowing how to parse data is an extremely valuable skill to have. Developers are expected to learn fast, with little guidance and little more incentive, and learning how to code teaches you how to make this instinctive. It will also boost your attention to detail because of the care and precision it requires. Learning how to effectively focus on the small stuff makes anyone better at any job.
Going for the upgrade
It’s another platform for self-empowerment and creativity; it’s about using the languages of the web to bring ideas in your head to life. If you’ve got the next Myo or Snapchat in your head, then coding is potentially all that stands between that awesome idea and an actual product on Apple shelves, for instance. And creativity is also the key to learning. There are various environments where adults can learn to code and it’s never been easier to learn; there are countless online communities (far from the stereotypical idea of coding being a lonely, solo job) like GitHub, sites like Hacker News where you can learn and read related posts, and courses like CodeAcademy, initiatives like Code.org, backed by Silicon Valley heavyweights Facebook, Apple and Google. It’s surprisingly easy to get started and within weeks be creating and executing your own programs on your laptop or smartphone. There’s a whole community waiting with open arms, and offering better pay, for fewer hours’ work, with jobs and a schedule that you decide. And even if you don’t end up becoming a coder, you’ll gain an incredible understanding of the digital world around you.