Why Code.

I love surfing

Wake up early. Coffee. Drive to the beach. Paddle out. Cold water, pelicans flying, dolphins, salt, sand…the epitome of fulfilment on all levels — addiction, freedom.
I could rant on about the deep connection with mother nature or the invaluable life lessons to be learnt from your time spent in the water — but this is a coding blog.

So why the hell are you ranting on about surfing, you might ask? It makes for a great analogy to the current social stigma we have developed regarding employment in current society. I’m also obsessed with surfing. But bear with me.

I’ve found that the most entertaining and rewarding sports to learn are those where conditions are uncertain. A football pitch will never move around mid-game, and neither will a basketball court. Surfing, on the other hand, is completely unpredictable. There’s no fixed track, no ramp to skate down — there are thousands of Kj of pure energy morphing into unpredictable shapes — and you, trying to ride them. When the rules are uncertain, your approach has to be be dynamic — you must improvise to thrive. The best surfers in the world have a multifaceted skill set that enables them to read their environment in milliseconds, adapt their surfing to those conditions, and rip.

Enter the job market. For the last century, our society has rewarded “long term perseverance”. We’re urged to choose our career path at an early age, project our goal 15 years into the future, then put our heads down and work our asses off to develop the necessary skills and experience to achieve that goal, in the hopes that someone will reward us for it. Our current employment structure doesn’t encourage deviations — no adapting, no pivoting — if you leave the path, you fail, if you don’t, you will surely become the next CEO of Google, like you rightly deserve.

But unless your name is Sundar Pichai (and if so, hi Sundar, here’s a link to my LinkedIn, call me), something didn’t work according to our plans!

We were so immersed in our wonderful conscience-easing pre-established route that we stopped paying attention to our surroundings. We forgot to account for change. We thought we were playing football, when we were surfing all along — and there’s a storm coming. Who would have thought a communist country with 1.3 Billion people would leverage globalisation and change the international trade landscape. Who would have said kids with no traditional education and zero experience would go on to become the most groundbreaking and successful entrepreneurs. Who would have imagined technology would drive innovation to change the very fabric of almost every industry we know at an unprecedented rate.

And as a result, we find ourselves packed with knowledge and experience completely irrelevant to our current environment. Misfits, with boring jobs or no job at all, dumbed down by the media, pinned down by debt, and with no clear path or direction. 90% of the information we have stored is worthless, and we lack key soft skills such as communication, motivation, persuasion or teamwork. We have suddenly realised we live in an era where we have an external hard drive permanently plugged into our brain called the internet, and as a result the ability to find and decipher information effectively has become much more valuable than knowing a textbook off by heart.

Technology has empowered and transformed industries such as transport and communications, enabling them to become a catalyst for globalisation, changing every aspect of society — sparking a revolution. Our population is growing exponentially, our resources are limited, and we are rapidly killing our planet. Technology is the only factor that can increase supply of food to account for the ever-growing demand, or redefine products and services to make a more efficient use of resources and reduce emissions. It is our vehicle for innovation and survival, and it is taking over every aspect of our lives.

To make a more efficient use of technology, we embed it within machines, computers, devices and factories. And we use coding to communicate with them. We are heading towards an era where, whether we like it or not, our fate will depend on technology, and I believe being literate in this transaction will become a standard.

Should everybody learn how to code? I really have no idea. There are way too many factors to consider. Is it for everyone? Will it make you more employable? Will everybody learn and drive salaries down? Maybe. What I do know is for now it is the only constant in a sea of change — it is here to stay, and for me this is reason enough to deviate from my path and learn. I also like computers, otherwise I’d be a masochist.

If we want to survive the next 20 years, we must diverge. Embrace change, accept conditions will be unstable — adapt our strategy. Look around, and find your equivalent to my coding. Find your competitive advantage. Oh and give surfing a try!

This blog will take you through my journey. Don’t worry, no more digressions or grandiloquent profound essays — I’ll stick to facts. Given my background, I will try to be as abstract as possible and focus on the core concepts behind coding, and its repercussions on industries, businesses and strategy, rather than coding itself.

If you want actually learn coding, you should probably join Ironhack, like I did :)

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