Why Everyone Should NOT Learn to Code

Secret Decoder RingI am sure developers everywhere have seen the recent flood of articles being put out there on sites like CNN or Code.org etc about how everyone should learn to code. The world is going to become this utopian society where everyone is going to code and write applications as easily as it is to read. Won’t it be great? You could possibly have your fridge telling you when you ran out of milk and ordering it for you without your intervention. That is until you realize you do have milk… 4 gallons of it with one actually spoiling. Of course then you find out the fridge ordered another $2,000 dollars worth of milk which is on its way if it doesn’t get lost because of other applications controlling the shipping screw up.

The fact is, the whole world should not learn to code anymore than all of us should learn to be a space shuttle engine designer or a lawyer. While I understand the need for more people to get interested in computer science and to fill our ranks with people who can meet the skills of the 21st century, going out there and telling everyone that coding is as easy as putting a bit of syntax down into an IDE and hitting compile is not the way. We need passionate people who are creative and want to learn to DESIGN software in addition to coding.

As many of you know I mentor at a board called Dream In Code. There we often run into a ton of people who are learning to code and frankly most of them should probably not be doing it. If you are learning to program and fall into one of these categories you should probably think about doing something else:

  1. Looking to make fast money for typing in what seems to be magic you don’t understand
  2. Coding because you played a computer game once and want to make the next Assassin’s Creed in a few days of work
  3. When you find yourself asking “Can you just give me the codes?”
  4. Someone asked you to do it because you are the closest thing to being a “person who knows computers”
  5. Thinks a bunch of reading is for nerds
  6. Thinks that if you read one book that is all there is to it to becoming a rock star
  7. Learning this one language is all you need to solve all your problems

I just think we need to educate everyone that software development is a lifestyle choice as much as it is a career choice. That if you are simply not going to be passionate about it, learn and grow, it isn’t the place for you. The last thing I think any of us industry programmers want is a flood of people coming in thinking they can do our job better than us, writing bad code and then forcing us into becoming maintenance programmers just to keep these companies, that believed in them, up and running. Sure we are going to make a killing off of it (if the company then doesn’t try to offshore to India first), but we should be putting our passion into new great products that have a chance to really make the world a better place.

This isn’t to say that people coming into the industry and wanting to learn are to be turned away. We should encourage those people and hope they can grow and contribute. I just don’t want to see our livelihoods altered by some movement to make coding universal. Coding is more than just typing some text into a terminal. The magic you see comes from those who are passionate about it.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

About The Author

Martyr2 is the founder of the Coders Lexicon and author of the new ebooks "The Programmers Idea Book" and "Diagnosing the Problem" . He has been a programmer for over 18 years. He works for a hot application development company in Vancouver Canada which service some of the biggest telecoms in the world. He has won numerous awards for his mentoring in software development and contributes regularly to several communities around the web. He is an expert in numerous languages including .NET, PHP, C/C++, Java and more.