Looking around the room, a sparse, modern, white loft in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, I realized I was 20 years older than everyone else. Thankfully, there came a man with salt and pepper whiskers and telltale gut bulge, and I was thrilled. “I am not the only middle-aged soul considering learning code,” I thought.
Little did I know that said fellow with facial hair and unruly belly was the instructor for the course in London, one of three instructors in the room and not another prospective student. (The instructors had been asked to attend the info session so that prospects could get their questions answered directly.)
Oops, I realized I was indeed the oldest prospect in the room. No matter. “It is not important when you get into the saddle, just that you do,” I told myself silently.
How I came to want to learn code, and give up my fantasy that you can get ahead without it
There were two inputs that propelled my thinking, and both reinforced the other.
First, I was reading Start-Up Nation, and it made me understand in a concrete way that the key to the future was going to be possessing certain technical skills that I didn’t yet know. Faking was no longer acceptable. The job growth of tomorrow is in the secret compartment of web developers today.
Go to http://www.code.org, move down the elevator, and take in the words of A-listers who urge us to create opportunities for our kids to learn code. If it’s good for our youth, isn’t it also good medicine for us?
Second, I realized that every time I had to reach out to a tech geek to sign off on the coding that I thought a client’s website needed, I was being choked. And that is not good. I would rather grab hold of the choke point, than be choked.
Not to mention that the techies were charging out at 2 to 3 times my rate, so the financial gain was sacrificed to someone who was more valuable.
I needed to squarely face something I had been avoiding like the plague …. I needed to learn code.
Enter the pivotal push: Reading about intensive workshops where you can learn to code
One lazy Sunday morning I picked up the newspaper and was startled to learn that there are hacker bootcamps that solve the jobless problem. That is, educational programs setting you on the path to a starting salary of $90K, if you could commit to a marathon of web immersion programming.
How does it grab you to know that Android developers have a negative 17% unemployment rate?
This is not made up. An HR exec told me once that if they need to fill a spot for a backend developer, they must poach from somewhere else. There are simply not enough skilled folks to catch.
Do you need to learn code regardless of your function or your role?
I’ll get away from wishy-washy advice and stir up controversy.
Ask yourself: If your firm needs to be innovative to compete in the future, how are you going to win if you shirk from learning what you need to know? You are like the dog that lies down, ready to take a beating.
The best entrepreneurial individuals will be those who know code.
I am spending a few hours a week online, learning coding for free at codeacademy.com. I urge you to do likewise.
I also spent 3 solid days doing a course of Programming for Non-Programmers, and it was awesome. (Link goes to the first day of the program.) I should have been on it years ago.
Even if you don’t mean to be the developer of a mobile app, even if it is not your thing to move into IT, simply knowing what is going on in the programming world and being able to communicate better with coders, or being able to envision where an app could enhance your offering, will make you (and your company) more innovative.
The person who can envision using technology to better serve customers is going to be the more valuable hire, or the most valuable (and promotable) employee.
Piloting your business’s future depends on your knowing the trends of today.
I’ll give you an example I garnered from the WSJ. Keith Brown is an arborist and owner of Austin Tree Experts, in Austin, Texas.
Normally, one might not think that tree experts need to know code. But Mr. Brown was smarter and more innovative. He imagined that with an app, his customers would be able to record tree ailments more precisely than they were currently able to, and his employees would then be empowered to better solve those issues when they got better data.
Drawing on resources ranging from an online app development tool to the Q&A site Stackoverflow [http://stackoverflow.com] and online tutorials at W3Schools.org and HTML5rocks.com, he brought his idea to fruition. I imagine that he probably had more hours of headaches than he would like to recall, but the point is that he had to IMAGINE how an app would take an uploaded photo of a problematic tree, mix it with geographic data pulled in from GPS along with other relevant notes and details, and point to specific remedies.
Diagnosing and solving the source of tree rot or bug infestation with greater accuracy or speed offers better customer service and, ultimately, competitive advantage over other arborist firms.
Think about it. What could you be doing that you are not now doing, to differentiate your company from others? What enhancements to your products or services rely on a technical understanding of the possibilities?
Do you see what I mean when I buttonhole you and tell you to learn code?
Now go do it. No more excuses.
- Follow the “extreme sport” of learning to code, by doing a bootcamp (GeneralAssemb.ly or Devbootcamp.com)
- Take the moderate approach, and use Codeacademy.com
- Sign up for continuous e-learning on-demand, with Lynda.com or Udemy.com
- If you are simply not ready and still recalcitrant, at least, take 5 minutes to see what is going on at Stackoverflow.com
Photo of the job boards taken at GeneralAssemb.ly, New York.
Share in the comments how you feel about learning code, and what I might do to help you overcome your reluctance.
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