Learning to Code

Knowing how to code is a really useful skill for anybody in business. For an entrepreneur, it means you can validate your high-tech startup idea without having to out and recruit a CTO or spend a lot of money on an external software development shop. But even if you’re running a pizza place, a little bit of coding experience can save you a lot of time when you’re playing with Excel spreadsheets late at night trying to figure out how much money all that fancy pepperoni is costing you. ¬†Most people are in the middle. I have a lot of friends who went into management consulting – the ones who know how to write little bits of software to help them do their jobs tend to get a lot more sleep at night.

The other reason to learn programming – even a little bit of programming – is that it makes the whole process of interacting with technology a lot less scary. Computers are black boxes, and people don’t trust black boxes.

So I thought CodeAcademy¬†was pretty cool. It’s a web site that takes you through some simple programming exercises in JavaScript, which is one of the most common programming languages on the web. In half an hour you can go from no experience at all to writing simple programs. They don’t do that much, and to solve real problems you’ll have to do more. But it’s a nice way to start out – and even if the student doesn’t go any further they’ll benefit from a more visceral understanding of how computers work. In the best case, it will teach them to recognize the kinds of patterns that can be solved with a little code.

Having written that, I suppose I should consider the opposite extreme. Just because you can write simple programs after half an hour of interactive lessons doesn’t mean that software development is either easy or low-value. It’s not. A top-tier software engineer took thousands of hours to get that way.

2 thoughts on “Learning to Code

  1. Thanks for the CodeAcademy link – should be helpful getting the new, non-technical UI designers on our team comfortable with web coding. I’ll let you know how it goes.