Coding has an image problem — but Hive Helsinki is about to change it

Our world is built around code, and companies are in constant need for skilled coders. It is estimated that by 2025, Finland will suffer from a shortage of 25,000 programmers. The only way we will be able to fill this gap is by organising more high-quality education and getting more people to see coding as an exciting career choice.

Students at École 42 Amsterdam / © Hive Helsinki

The numbers don’t seem to add up: almost guaranteed employment and skills to design world-changing products and services but not enough enthusiastic future professionals. There’s a clear demand for coders, who would be able to walk into a job right after graduation. To match this need, Supercell started an initiative to open a new kind of coding school in Helsinki. In early 2018, they began to work with our Kuudes team on the insight, branding and design of the school, and Hive was born.

To tap into the current mindsets of potential students and the problems with the industry, we interviewed dozens of likely applicants such as high school students, current employees and career shifters, as well as a dozen or so opinion leaders from the education and technology sectors. Of course these qualitative insights do not give us the whole truth, but we believe they tell us a lot about the assumptions about coding among students and the demand in the labour market.

As Hive is now open for applicants, we wanted to share some of our insights along the way. What are the most significant prejudices against coding and what kind of coders will we need in the future?

Four main insights guiding our branding and design work:

1. Demystify coding — many prejudices against coding exist, even though the world is built around code

Surprisingly, the idea of coding as a profession for people in the industry was almost the direct opposite of that of people outside it. Few outsiders regarded coding as an appealing career choice. They saw the work as solitary, interacting only with machines, and related merely to the gaming industry. Many saw the field as too masculine.

But people doing coding or working with tech stated the opposite: yes, more diversity is definitely needed, but coding is a social profession that requires proper skills in group-working, communication and problem-solving. And actually, few people know that coding started as a career for women in the 1960s but changed over the years into a male-dominated profession.

The Computer Girls, Cosmopolitan, April 1967.

2. Call for passion, skills and vision — you don’t need to be a maths genius to succeed

We realised that the traits of a successful coder don’t include specific skills, such as maths, as one might think. The best coders have a passion for something else, such as gaming or education. To attract the best (potential) coders, we need to help people find their passion, which is the element required to help them go the extra mile and create something spectacular.

Influencer @lilmiquela, Source: courtesy

Coding is needed in all industries, as is the understanding of tech in various professions. There will be a growing need for different kinds of coders since we, the users of the services they create, are also a diverse bunch of people.

As we already have computer-generated fashion influencers, we need fashion influencers to code these. Maybe in the future, we’ll also have lawyers who can develop and code legal systems, or retired ballet dancers who will be able to program and design an app for improving one’s skills and for optimal recovery.

3. Learning by doing — to match the workforce with recruiters’ needs, we need an education that sets you up for modern work life

Our education should prepare us for the work we will be doing. Working life will require more and more visionary doers who can tackle a variety of skill sets. Working individually seems to be the exception rather than the rule, with modern work concentrating increasingly around teamwork.

Consequently, being able to collaborate and communicate effectively in teams is a big asset. Sharing common goals and forming them into doable tasks requires problem-solving and self-direction skills. Successful teamwork needs proactive participation from each member.

If our primary education is already teaching self-direction, so should secondary education. Still, many schools are missing experience-based learning in real-life situations, where time and resources are scarce, and decisions need to be made quickly and independently. This is the situation facing graduates when landing their first job.

There seemed to be a clear need for a new, more profound kind of collaboration between coding education and companies. So being a good coder is not all about programming; to match recruiters’ needs, you’ll need a bunch of other skills, which Hive’s hands-on, peer-to-peer education model should ensure you’ll get.

© Hive Helsinki, illustrator: Janne Iivonen

4. The Nordic oddity — Helsinki could be the dream location for learning to code

As Supercell saw the potential that Hive has for luring international students and workers to Finland, we tapped into what makes Hive Helsinki different from all the other schools around the world based on the same pioneering “École 42” concept.

Helsinki is small and compact, but still international and open, and that was seen as an exciting combination. We are pragmatic and reliable, which are words that shouldn’t be underestimated when talked about technology. And despite the prejudices, gaming is definitely not the only industry putting Finland on the global tech map, as there are also many interesting Finnish startups in edtech, health and cleantech.

No wonder, then, that Helsinki was ranked number one in terms of its connectedness by the Global Startup Ecosystem report. Not to mention our perfect location between two of the biggest tech markets: Asia and the US.

Slush 2018, Picture: Mapbox

We understood that before we can sell the idea of coding as a career to a broader group of potential students, we need to demystify coding. We need more high-level education that matches the needs of companies in all sorts of professions where critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving are a must. And that is what Hive’s brand is all about: opening coding up to all and amplifying programming as a profession to cover broader spectrum of skills.