You Can’t Build an iPhone With Python

On the narrow definition of engineering perpetuated by boot camps and other coding initiatives

Code Camps and the Messaging Around Them

There is a pattern of rhetoric that multiple colleagues of mine have observed with code camp graduates, and it includes the belief that web and app development are essentially the entirety of the field.

Languages and skillsets taught by coding boot camps. All screenshots: Bhavya Kashyap

Coding is not equivalent to computer science, which is not equivalent to software/computer engineering, which is not equivalent to STEM.

Code. Code, code, code, code, code. Code has now become synonymous with computer science. If you are a CS grad, you have probably noticed this, and you know that this equivalence is a disservice to both disciplines. If you are not in this line of work, you may wonder what the difference is. The nuances lie not just in skill set, but also in focus — though, of course, there is overlap.

The best employers.
12% of what kinds of engineers?

If young university applicants or even older tech-hopefuls do not understand their possibilities, they will take the path of least resistance.

Many professional engineers, including myself, are disconcerted by the highly-focused channeling of workers toward boot camps and CS programs that sway toward higher-level, client-side programming. This trend trains people to focus on areas that benefit only a portion of tech. The industry needs people who possess a deeper understanding of engineering so that the empty positions around us can be filled. If young university applicants or even older tech-hopefuls do not understand their possibilities, they will take the path of least resistance. Ultimately we will lose the attention of future engineering talent, from core software engineering, to civil and mechanical, to web and application development.

Selling STEM Dreams to Minorities

There is the minority spin to this as well. Code.org, Women Who Code, Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code. These minority-focused organizations, inadvertently or not, propagate the idea that coding is STEM. They are championed for bringing women to science and engineering; this claim only holds because the public perception of these areas has, again, been narrowed down to code.

There is an obvious dearth of equivalent camps for skill sets beyond coding, and that is because the companies that need those skill sets don’t fund them.

In the spirit of optimism, though, I will assume that placement rates are indeed high. Code camp grads often appear to get jobs at startups or mid-sized companies a few months out of camp. Then, with a few years of experience, some are able to hop over to giants like Google or Amazon.

Techgirlz covers a balanced set of engineering topics that includes both applied and abstract concepts.

What’s Next?

I’ve outlined my concerns, but all of them resolve to a blank. Whose job is it to provide education on all the possibilities for roles in tech?

Builder of things @ Cocoon. Alum of Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and Blackberry. Canadian. Opinions are my own, often flawed.

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