If you can learn to code, maybe you can get a job

Like the more than 330,000 who’ve signed up as of this writing, I registered for Code Year to brush up on and refine old programming techniques, as well as to learn new ones.

Codecademy screen shotI don’t plan to be a programmer. Ever. I don’t have the patience for it, and I’ve realized that there is a (pretty low) ceiling I have when it comes to understanding what’s happening in code. But, since graduating and landing a job (a future post), I wanted to give myself a new challenge. I have no idea on if I’ll follow through with 52 weeks of lessons, but after making my way through the first set, I’m interested enough to keep going.

Code Year is pretty simple. Every week, Codecademy will send out Web-based lessons for wannabe programmers to run through. The first week’s lessons revolved around, declaring a variable, making sure code is formatted and documented, and even got into for and while loops with if statements. I say “even” because I was surprised the lessons got into this so quick. These lessons covered in an hour what it took a semester to accomplish in the CS 100 class I took as a senior.

I don’t want to let the apparent ease with which I cruised through this set of lessons – albeit with a few bumps in the road – fool anybody. Programming is still a special skill – so special, in fact, that it’s only behind engineering in starting average salary for the class of 2011, according to CNN Money. Not anybody can master it, as Douglas Rushkoff insinuated in an article this week for CNN – Learn to code, get a job.

“We are socializing, working, consuming, and living in a world increasingly defined by programs. Learning to code is the best way to understand what all those programs do, or even to recognize that they are there in the first place,” Rushkoff writes.

I agree. Having programming classes and being around programmers taught me that people actually have to tell computers what to do. “Computers are useless,” Picasso is credited as saying. “They only give you answers.” And many programmers to deliver those answers on those devices. Watson didn’t just appear. It was created.

Later in his post, though, Rushkoff suggests that it only takes two to three weeks for to get their heads wrapped around programming, “much less the months of effort they’d need to become proficient.”

Let me state that I don’t think I’m stupid. I graduated with highest honors from a university and practically landed a job as soon as I took my last final exam. I was in my high school’s National Honor Society. In grade school, letters came to my parents and me, urging that I become part of my school’s gifted program. But I’ve been taken many classes over the past eight years in which I’ve used programming to some degree, and I’m still not proficient in the last bit.

I would suggest that Rushkoff’s article had been called what I’ve called this post – If you can learn to code, maybe you can get a job.

“It’s time Americans begin treating computer code the way we do the alphabet or arithmetic,” Rushkoff says.

Okay, so let’s start teaching it in schools nationwide to students as young as toddlers. The fact is, we still won’t necessarily be producing an army of programmers. How many people studied math up through college and don’t end up with a career in that industry? We all learn to write, but just look at Facebook and Twitter and see how many people can’t put together a coherent thought.

I’m glad Codecademy wants to democratize programming, as Rushkoff puts it. It makes coding that much more accessible to people like me, who don’t really want to focus on it for a career, but want to know more about it anyway. But it’s still not something that just anybody can pick up.

By Adam Bockler

Adam Bockler is a B2B marketing professional, a DDP Yoga instructor, a personal trainer, a multi-time USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame inductee, a blood donor, and many other things.

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