How do you know if you’ll be good at coding?
This particular query emerged countless times from attendees of our open evenings, and indeed, from across the Atlantic in New York, Seattle, and San Francisco, in whether or not a participant has to be very tech savvy to engage with the course content? It was often phrased almost as an insecurity that the coding environment, a world of thousands of unfamiliar languages, was exclusively for the technologically obsessed. We won’t dance around the fact that being technically astute, being aware of developments in the world of technology, counting from 0 to 10, or indeed 0 to 1, naturally, it does help.
However, it’s not the defining factor in who should consider participation, nor who becomes good at coding.
If you enter any task-oriented learning environment blindfolded, with zero experience, you will inevitably struggle more than others who have some existing knowledge on how the system operates. This is one of the fundamental reasons why many coding bootcamps actively encourage the use of widely available, open-source software for the sake of an introduction. Over the course of the 12 week programme your fingertips will be glued to the keyboard and your eyes fastened to the monitor, so we believe it’s no harm to familiarise yourself with the basics, and from there, when introduced with complex coding tasks and group projects, under expert mentorship, you’ll find it far less intimidating.
Coding is very much a process- it’s a skill acquired over time that must be honed and developed attentively, or it will never flourish. Talent is one thing, but skill is developed through hours and hours of hard work.
Back to the initial question- does one need to be geeky or exceptional with numbers to participate? In a coding environment, in learning how to programme, of course there will be complex numerical tasks one will face, so mathematical literacy is helpful, although the scope of coding bootcamps generally attempt to look beyond the margins of graph paper, beyond theory, to the more pragmatic aspects of coding.
After all, we’re not here to polish up your calculus, coding bootcamps are ultimately there to teach you how to advance yourself as a coder, and a great deal of that progress happens outside the parameters of an equation. For much of your day, you will be staring at numbers and symbols, inescapable in the technology sector as you would expect, so it’s best not to be afraid of them. After all, they’re your next language.
‘In an open letter to European Union education ministers, leading lights of the tech industry this week set out their stalls for the future needs of the digital economy.
An estimated 900,000 ICT jobs in Europe will be left unfilled by 2020 if action is not taken to close the skills gap, the letter says.’
‘The letter, signed by Microsoft’s vice president of corporate affairs Stephen Collins, Erika Mann, head of the Brussels office for Facebook, and Peter Vestrbacka, ‘Mighty Eagle’ of Finnish tech company Rovio, says coding should be considered a core skill, alongside reading, writing and basic maths.’
Education- Forbes, 2014.
There is a vast array of skills an enthusiast should possess in order to do become a good coder within the industry, but from the get-go, from the origin of your story, you should not be daunted by just how technical and numerical everything appears to be initially. Whenever you read articles about programming, you’ll see enormous images of black screens dotted with unfamiliar symbols and numbers alone, and no more, and it can seem a little alien to the everyday person.. (Admittedly, we’re guilty of such imagery ourselves,’ however, being tech-oriented, being familiar with the world of tech for the sake of participation is all part of developing fluency in all matters of programming and design. It is not a dictionary you can immediately absorb, nor a Little Book of Calm that you can assimilate into your system by accidentally swallowing it a la Bill Bailey in Black Books, but it is something that can be acquired. It’s all about getting over your initial nervousness, your initial insecurity about whether or not you’re creative enough, or good enough at maths, or technically literate enough- language fluency comes with time, and you will be astonished what one can achieve within a 12 week framework under the right guidance.
‘But the ability to code is not just a “selfish industry ambition,” the letter to the European Union education ministers said. “Nor is it just for ‘geeks’ or those destined for a career in ICT.’
Unfortunately, programming literacy and coding talent are not matching the demand of an ICT market in need of viable employees in both design and development fields. If you’re ambitious enough, and your work ethic matches your ambition, coding skill and language fluency will come with time. It would be a shame if this drought of coding talent is set to continue due to people being afraid that coding, either personally or in a professional environment, is solely the domain of the technologically obsessed and the geek.