Should you learn to code?

Nowadays it is easy to see and hear multiple people and personalities talking about the wonders of technology and asking everybody to learn to code. In this post I will try to analyze if this is true.

Why people say you should learn to code?

It is well known that Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder said once the following: “I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.” That is a very powerful sentence, created to deliver high impact. However, out of context it does not say much. “Think” is a term too broad, and you cannot conclude that everyone that do not know how to code, the do not know how to think. Similar ways of saying the same is when you read that coding ‘improves your problem-solving skills’ or ‘makes you more efficient’ in what? painting for example? fixing your bike?. Again, this is a generalization that may, or may not be correct in your situation.

It is also say that in our world today, everything is technology, therefore, coding is important. Well, there are also multiple cars around and I don’t know how to fix everything. You may be required to use multiple apps, programs and other software, that does not mean that you have to know how to code to use it or improve it (unless you are a software developer of course.

Why people say you should not learn to code?

Many of the advocates to not learn to code will say that coding is difficult. Which again, also lacks context. Developing a program for consumer is difficult and requires a lot of effort in time, people and costs. Making a program of 20 lines of code to automate a task is not that difficult.

Another reason given to not learn to code is that finding a job as software developer requires to know more that coding few lines, which is true. But it does not make sense to think that everybody that learns basic coding will apply for a better, or high-paid job as software developer. In this case, this is a generalization that may not be correct.

So, what should you do?

You should first investigate if learning some basic coding does help you or not. Even before installing any software or even write a line of code. For example, do you have multiple repetitive tasks like filling a formulary using a template? then learning to make a small program to solve that particular problem may help you. And also, a key word is basic, if you don’t have to learn any programming skills for your work, it is very unlikely that you require a deep understanding of multiple programming languages.

The difficulty here is that, if you don’t know how to code, you cannot know if it will be helpful or not. It is way easier to find a problem (or something that you think that can be improved) and look for solutions. Maybe one is to write some code or maybe not.

I do think that many tasks that we have in our jobs many times can be more efficient using some software that we create ourselves, like my example for filling a formulary multiple time. So it is very likely that you can find multiple tasks where you efficiency will be increased after learning to code a bit. However, that does not mean that you have to go deep into a programming language. usually just following an example for a code and knowing how it works will suffice.