Does coding need a national week? Just about everything has a day, week, or month dedicated to it, so why shouldn’t one of the most important skills in today’s economy have a week to promote itself? Yes, it’s a great photo opportunity for a government obsessed with the bland mantra of ‘innovation’, but I’m not going to be cynical. Let’s not let ‘coding’ be taken over by self-important entrepreneurs; instead, let’s remind everyone of the immense possibilities and opportunities that learning to code opens up for everyone – from data analysts to designers.
There’s a great story on Medium posted by the event’s organizers on one of the Codex DLD (the team behind National Coding Week) success stories. Dwayne Murray explains how learning to code helped him through a difficult period, the skills he developed eventually landing him a job in the digital sector after being unemployed. While Dwayne’s story has a nice personal dimension, as he talks about his difficulties finding a job after becoming unemployed, while trying to support his partner and new baby, it’s the broader picture of what he’s doing that’s particularly interesting. He says in the interview:
“We learnt how to write code in HTML & CSS, the basic fundamentals of design, digital marketing, social media and SEO. In fact, everything I learnt in those two with Codex, I use every day in my current job. It was the perfect platform to start on my new career path. Even the website I designed and built during those two weeks is still live now! I’m actually thinking of developing it further in order to create a sideline business through affiliate marketing.”
Coding is always about more than just code – it’s about creating things that have a tangible, real-world value. For Dwayne, learning code has given him access to the rapidly expanding world of digital marketing. But we could also be talking about a whole range of jobs that require programming skills, from design to data modelling. If National Coding Week wants to accomplish anything, it needs to make people realise that coding is a creative activity, ultimately about producing new experiences and new ideas. It’s about generating value.
This is essential, particularly if you want to get kids into coding. After all, if you want to inspire kids with what might simply appear to be nonsensical lines of text, you want to make it more like design, woodwork, and even cookery lessons – it certainly shouldn’t be like my old IT lessons where someone showed you how to use PowerPoint and navigate your way through spreadsheets. It might prepare you for the ennui of the modern workplace, but it doesn’t show you what programming makes possible, and it certainly doesn’t ignite enthusiasm.
But if you’re already a developer, what relevance does National Coding Week actually have for you? It’s great that people are talking about programming, but when you’re dealing with design requests, tackling another deployment, debugging and fixing things you thought would work, the apparent glamour and even minor heroism with which your programming skills are presented in initiatives like these doesn’t quite ring true.
It might be different for kids – and indeed, anyone who hasn’t ever coded before – but even if you’re an accomplished and confident programmer, National Coding Week is a great reminder that there is always something new to learn – a new programming language perhaps, but even a new approach to a language, a new framework or library. As an initiative for the uninitiated, National Coding Week promotes the wealth of opportunities that coding skills can bring and invites curiosity about the digital world; for programmers, it’s a time to rethink what you know about your skills, your job and what you create.
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National Coding Week runs from 21st to the 27th September 2015 in the UK. Learn more here, or follow @codingweek on Twitter.