Breaking the Coding Language Barrier

By 2016, Jorge Tovar had tried many times to learn programming, but it had never quite clicked. Frustrated by the language barrier between him and his developer teammates, he decided that, this time, he’d finally make it. This time, he’d try Codecademy. Here’s his story.

Hi, I’m Jorge! I’m a Digital Strategist at Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS.

How I got started with coding

As happens with many people, my first experience with coding was in a required course in college, and I didn’t really get into it. Over time it steadily dawned on me just how important coding would be for my job. Before I took Codecademy Pro Intensive, I was a Director of Digital Marketing at L’Oréal, and I would often find myself in meetings with web developers where I’d be at a disadvantage because I couldn’t speak their language. I figured that if I had some technical experience myself, I could move the entire process along faster, challenge the norms, and better guide my team.

What I learned

I knew I needed to learn to code, and I’d tried out most of the methods out there, but none of them quite clicked. I felt like I was spinning my wheels — I needed to learn by doing, and to apply that work to real life. That’s why I signed up for Codecademy Pro Intensive. Keeping to a step-by-step weekly curriculum, working on real-life projects to make the concepts stick, having guidance with that challenging final project, chatting with experts to ask those questions you’ve been dying to ask — it was exactly the setup I needed. I loved getting insight into how developers actually work — both seeing this in action with the video sessions, and in experiencing it myself. It was enlightening to see exactly how coding involves trial-and-error, experimentation, debugging, and breaking things; even for someone with years of experience! Halfway through the course I actually switched jobs from digital marketing at L’Oréal to digital product management at Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS, so my new colleagues haven’t been able to see my transformation — they don’t know I only picked up these skills recently — but I can see the change my new skills have made. My managers and team are confident in me leading digital strategy because of my wider skillset, I’m more valuable to them, and I feel more confident in my seniority.

Where I am now

Learning to code has simply transformed how I do my job. Even though I’ve made a couple of projects since graduating, I’m not myself writing a lot of code day-to-day, but knowing how to do so has made me a better leader to those who do. Having both a broad and deep knowledge of how the game is played is the sort of thing that differentiates a minor league coach and a Belichick. I’ll give you an example: coding actually reminds me of playing with Legos as a kid. Say you gave two people a Lego set and asked them both to build you a car: they’d make two completely different yet functional cars for you — it turns out that code is pretty similar! Now that I know how to code, I know how to convey instructions to developers, be precise with my critiques (e.g. not just “that blue is wrong” but “you should use this hex value instead”), and I can make plans with much more certainty because I know what’s possible. If I didn’t have that technical knowledge, I’d be relying on others to put together that vision for me, but now I’m someone who knows what he’s talking about. Experiencing code as this creative, experimental, problem-solving process was fascinating, empowering, and more than a little addictive.

Where I’m going

Now that I can code, I’m more fluent with technology in general, I’m more confident in my work, and my colleagues & managers are more confident in me too. With those sorts of results, of course I’m going to keep learning! In the near future I’ll be focused on server-side technologies to add functionality to my final project from Pro. Right now, I’m taking another Pro Intensive course to add React and some more advanced JS to my knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I’m excited to see where this takes me; I’m really enjoying what I’m doing!

My advice to others

Digital tools are becoming more and more important every day. They’re disrupting everything, so understanding how these tools work on a deeper level will make you a better player in your field. Learn to code. Don’t be afraid to mess up, don’t be afraid to fail. Not only is failure to be expected because you’re just starting to get your feet wet, but that’s how the whole process of coding works! Rest assured: even the best developers get stuck, break things, and need to Google their way out.