Why I Code (or, more appropriately: Why code? Why now?)
Some of the best writing I encountered during my second semester in business school was by Timothy McCarthy explaining why he wrote. Why would one even need to explain such a basic thing? Why do I go to the gym? Why do I read? You get the picture.
But, right now, coding for me isn’t a basic thing. It’s not a given, or an assumption. So “Why I Code” feels strangely foreign in my mouth as I roll around the words, or as I type them out. So I’ve given you, my reader, an alternate title.
Many people have expressed a variation of the below:
- “Why are you spending your time and money coding this summer?”
- “Why not take a vacation?”
- “Why not do another business internship?”
- “Are you going through a quarter life crisis?”
And my usual answer is something like this:
“I want to skill up. Today, tech is more important than ever and I feel like such a fraud when I talk about APIs, or frontend, or backend. I sort of know, but do I really know? I may not be the best coder by the end of it but at least I can empathize with others and gain a greater understanding of the backbone of today’s biggest revolution.
…Also, I just want to be able to breathe life into more of my ideas instead of waiting around to find a freelancer.”
The thing is, most people won’t ask this question of all the kids that come after us. It’ll be a given to know how to code. People will be at least trilingual, perhaps in this order: Chinese, English, [insert various coding languages].
But I didn’t want to just leave my explanation at that.
So, just like in coding, I tried again and “re-factored.”
Why I Code, take two
- Challenge. Last time I had graduated from school, I spent nearly three months in Beijing learning Mandarin. It was one of the most difficult things I had done, but also the most rewarding. I left being able to speak Mandarin fluently. I felt proud that I was able to speak to my Chinese-American friends in their language and that there were more Chinese people who had a positive view of Indians and Indian-Americans.
- Independence & autonomy. Ever since I was little, my mom would tell me I would deny her overtures of help. “Do you need help tying your sneakers?” I would brush her hands away. “Do you need help eating?” I would eat with my own hands. This desire for independence started young. And now, with these skills, I want to be able to implement more of my ideas on my own, without using “I’m waiting for a great developer” as an excuse.
- Empathy. I hope to run a company one day, whether my own or someone else’s. As all companies become tech-enabled, I want to be able to empathize with the people I might be asking to do something or to better understand what I should be asking for.
- Buy time / use time. Rarely in life do you have major inflection points. The moment you graduate high school. Or graduate college. Or leave your first real job. Or graduate from graduate school. [As you can see, I’m a huge nerd driven by school milestones.] And during these moments of inflection, what are you doing? Are you wallowing in uncertainty? Following the herd? I felt like I was doing both while I was physically in the space of attending business school. Flatiron has give me the time and the space to remove myself from my usual peers and surround myself with an incredibly diverse group of people doing things so different than reading cases and analyzing financial statements. So rather than just do another business internship or travel for the summer, I wanted to do something else. Time tends to either a) expand and slip away or b) contract (“it’s going by too fast!”) based on how much you’re enjoying what you’re doing. And when I’m not doing something or lie totally still, it just expands away…
- Familiarity. I have loved languages since I can remember — probably because I have enjoyed reading from a young age. I did spelling bees for a large part of my childhood and enjoyed learning etymology and syntax. As a Latin nerd, how difficult could learning this be?
- Fear. At the same time, being a “coder” is a moniker that doesn’t make me feel completely me yet. I’m being left behind by the world, one that will be increasingly run by AI robots. I will be the worst at this. I was almost denied admission the first time. But hey, who’s afraid of a good challenge? Let’s go.