“Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer… because it teaches you how to think” – Steve Jobs
Learning how to code will improve your life. It will shape the way you think, the way you tackle problems and broaden your understanding of the world around you. It is of no surprise that some of the world’s most innovative companies have technical-oriented management at the helm. Satya Nadella (CEO of Microsoft), Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) and Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo) are just a few who started their careers dabbling in code. But in order to understand why learning how to code can assist you, we must take a look at the key driver of innovation, software.
Software has transformed the world in an exponential fashion, enabling rapid growth and easier access to information. It has radically changed the way we live our lives by providing us with greater intrinsic value from the services we use. Practically every industry, from entertainment to agriculture is undergoing a dramatic economic shift in which market leaders are giving way for innovative, smaller companies who are better positioned to leverage software. The world’s largest bookseller, Amazon, has shown how an optimised supply chain and great customer experience equates to rapid growth and acquisition of market share. Uber, another software company, has utilised their car service offering to deploy the largest logistics network in the world. The company exploded into the market by providing a service that had a significantly higher utility (consumer value) than its competitors (investors sometimes refer to this as 10x). It is software that enabled this growth. But it doesn’t stop there, the largest video/music distribution networks, marketing platforms and telecommunication companies are all software-driven.
Now, I’m not saying that you should drop everything and change career paths to become a programmer, however, learning how to code involves generating a skillset that will serve you well with any career path, in any industry, and here’s why.
Programming teaches you how to efficiently break problems into smaller ones, enabling you to take logical steps to solve the task at hand. You begin to think pragmatically, in terms of small functions which are more manageable. You move faster and complete work more efficiently. You become a master of tackling the hardest problems.
Work is full of repetitive tasks that are prime for automation. Have you ever sat down for hours performing the same task and wondered if there was a better way? One of my first roles involved writing some documentation for which I was given a two week deadline. I finished the task in two hours. The program I wrote is still being used at the company four years later.
Understand how the world works
There are many similarities between notions of economics (consumer value, utility, opportunity cost), finance (optimisation, probability) and software. Software is in essence, a language of problem solving, which has been derived from the way in which the world works – the intersection of science and technology. Having a high level view of how software is made will open your eyes to new ways of thinking, and help you become what Eric Schmidt (ex Google CEO) refers to as a smart creative.
Freedom to execute your ideas
Having an idea is worthless unless you are able to execute it. There’s not a month that goes by that I come up with a new idea. The ability to execute them is incredibly rewarding.
There are a lack of good software engineers and computer scientists in Australia. Perhaps more importantly, there’s a lack of people who understand software. There has been a push toward STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) and most universities over flexible degrees that allow you to study areas of business combined with technical degrees, making it a wise choice for young learners who want to be in an industry with high demand.
For those who are looking to supplement their career, it’s never too late to learn a bit of code! My advice would me to check out Codecademy. Or, if a tutorial style of learning is not for you, the best way of picking up code is to select an idea and search on Google for ways of implementing it. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish with a goal in mind (and Google).