Coding Needs a Brand Makeover

20 Ideas in 20 Days — Day 12

“If you want to write code you have to be good at math.”

Do you believe that statement? A lot of people do.

But it’s not true. Most coding requires a working understanding of the concepts taught in Algebra 1. Not trig. Not calculus. Algebra.

So why does that belief exist and persist?

It’s mostly historical. Our stereotype of the computer nerd is associated with the pre dot.com era use of computers to process large amounts of data and solve hard computational problems in areas like aerodynamics and game theory. And the people who built them and programmed them were thought-leaders in math, science and engineering. So computer programming became associated with people who were wicked strong in that skill set.

I think it’s time to disassociate it.

I am a huge supporter of all of the initiatives to refashion STEM stereotypes, and engage a more diverse set of people to pursue those professions. Especially the programs that target girls and young women. But I think there’s a strong belief out there that if you want to follow a STEM path, you need to have a strong aptitude for math as well as a passion for it.

So what about all the girls and young women (and others) who are inspired by subjects other than math? It’s important that they not self-select (or be counseled) out of programming. It puts them at a disadvantage. In my mind, being conversant in computer code is the entry price for career success in today’s creative economy. As I said in yesterday’s post, it’s hard to imagine the possibilities of what you can build if you can’t see the legos.

Coding needs a brand makeover. It could be repositioned as a thought process — another component of the critical thinking tool kit. It could be positioned as a foundation for anyone who wants to build new things. And for sure, we could do a better job telling people that even if math, science and engineering aren’t your gig, you can still kick-ass in programming.