3 Reasons Why You Should Learn to Code

If some people dream of becoming doctors, firemen or lawyers as children, as an adult I dreamt of being Aaron Swartz or a member of the secret Telecomix team. I would spend hours perusing all sorts of articles, books, and videos on these enigmatic coders, developers and hackers. I fantasized about an obscure world at the end of their ten fingers. Computer programming was a super power from an entirely esoteric dimension. Not for a moment , I imagined that I could enter this universe, that learning to code was not only reserved for the super-talented and pre-pubescent few.

The desire to learn was greater than the fear of failure, and a year ago I decided to put my life on hold to attend an intensive coding bootcamp for two months, and ten hours per day. I learnt several programming languages, built a program and left training with a site which was coded completely by hand.

With very ambitious goals when it came to my skills, opposite to a typical geek. I was skeptical but I signed up without hesitation while I accumulated “tares”. First of all, I am a girl ;-) over thirty, who is well-established but most of all a journalist with training in social and political science rather than hard science.

In summary, I expected coding stereotypes. I was wrong on all counts. I sweated over it, I had nightmares over it, I obsessed over it but I learnt more in nine weeks than in twenty years at school. This is what I learnt during these two years… and it was not only about coding.

1. Learning to code is not only about learning to code, it’s about learning how to learn.

I was expecting the knowledge to be brought to me and the techniques to be handed to me on a silver platter as the case is in school. I was mistaken. Learning to code is about learning to search for the correct info, methods, techniques thanks only to our friend, Google. This is because firstly, IT is constantly changing and one must be able to keep one’s knowledge up to date, and, secondly, because the field of study is so vast that it would never be possible to cover everything in the course. We got used to it from the start. Coding is about learning how to learn. This methodology is extremely unsettling in the first few weeks and one very quickly wonders why this teaching method is not applied at school. Our pupils would become much more active, invested, curious and cultivated.

2. Studying a language, whether programming or foreign, is formatting the brain with a new mindset.

In the first two weeks, the Bootcamp exercises were structured towards “Implementation of a program which will allow you to count calories from as McDonalds menu” or even “Write Black Jack formulations in computing methods”. Other than the fact that I didn’t understand the exercises, I didn’t understand how to literally translate a sentence into programming language. How could a “calorie-counting menue” or the “banking game” be transformed into a type of :

def end_game_message(player_score, bank_score) / if player_score > 21 /“You are over 21… you lose.” / elsif player_score == 21 / “Black Jack!” / elsif player_score > bank_score/ “You beat the bank! You win.” /end/end

It was futile to transcribe it literally or sentence by sentence as learning a new language is a new way of thinking, seeing things, and conceptualizing your environment. It is adopting a new point of view on the world. And it is upsetting.

3. Whatever your background or profession, coding is useful.

I spent these two months with formers insurers, lawyers, broadcasters, business people, financial people, marketers, hotelkeepers and journalists… They all attended bootcamp to improve their profession on the web, to disrupt their professional sphere or quite simply to automate their work processes. The intersection between knowledge of a specific field and that of coding adds real value professionally. Although today this quality is an option, it will no doubt quickly become beneficial for many professions as a required and obligatory skill. Better to get ahead.

Obviously, other than these three learnings who have literally changed my outlook on a lot of things, I will also always remember a whole host of other discoveries and pleasures through learning code. Amongst which :

• being able to build something with my hands

• the freedom of being able to formulate my ideas into a programme (at least as a prototype)

• discovering a community of passionate individuals who are making code more and more accessible due to tutos, moocs, and are ready to respond to your questions…

• The indescribable joy, pride and adrenaline which boosts you when suddenly your code works. It is unsurpassable and it feels like heaven.

I still do not quite know how I will optimize all this new knowledge. But I do know however that there is now a before and after Bootcamp, and that nothing will ever quite be the same :-)

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