Recently I went to two events related to programming that were on opposite ends of the “coding experience” spectrum. On one end of the spectrum are experienced programmers and on the other are inexperienced coders on a quest to learn.

Two Tech Events

The first event was Techstars Cloud Demo Day. Techstars is a program that offers mentorship, funding, and guidance to companies that are at the beginning of their startup journey. At the end of three months of intense work and mentorship each of the companies demo their app or service to people interested in investing. I was sitting in the cheap seats with the community and family members. The founders of these companies had oodles of experience and had to demonstrate some mastery of coding or their field of business to get accepted to the program.


The second event was a local web developers meetup that was hosted at the offices of a company that offers in-person development bootcamps. People can start with little to no coding experience and upon completion of the program can be equipped to apply for a good paying job.

I wanted to ask each of the people I met “What is your why?”  I want to understand why they chose to learn to code and what was their journey to get to where they are now.


My Motivation

I’ve been a professional developer, meaning someone pays me for code I write, for 22 years now. After a brief stint of wanting to be an astronaut in grade school I switched to wanting to be a coder in high school. After two years of computer science in high school it was a no-brainer for me to major in CS at university. No major flip flopping for me.

My wife and I both got jobs after graduation in the field we majored in. I majored in Computer Science and she majored in Human Resources. I’ve now been a programmer for so long that my original motivation for wanting to learn to code is faint. I can say that it is related to the joy of creation and problem solving that coding entails. It’s a lot of fun to create something (a piece of functioning software) out of nothing (a blank code editor).


Some random art at Geekdom


So why do people want to learn to code?

Before the meetup I was sitting at a coworking space down the street. Three of the bootcamp’s students sat across from me. They are easy to spot since they wear shirts with the school’s logo on it. I had my over-the-ear headphones on, but could still eavesdrop on their conversation.

One student was contemplating dropping out of the course because the work was difficult. One of the other students reminded him how much the bootcamp cost and said he should just finish.

The third student said something interesting. He said he was desperate for a job and even if a potential employer would only pay him $X amount of money he’d take it. The amount of money he was looking for was very low in the tech jobs world. He either didn’t know what was possible with the skills he’s learning, or he was really desperate for work.

Whatever their main motivation is I couldn’t tell by over hearing their conversation. But, they are motivated. They are motivated enough to spend time and money to learn a skill they believe will provide them a better life.

I want to know and understand that motivation. It fascinates me. It excites me. And I enjoy being around it because that is the motivation that I was filled with a few decades ago that started me on my own coding journey.

If you’re a coder, why did you want to learn to code?

Posted by Daniel Espinoza

I'm a digital tentmaker, web developer, a native Texan, avid reader, and a wanna be polyglot. Follow Daniel on Twitter @d_espi or on Google+

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  1. Hi Daniel:

    I only set my sights on learning to code around 2009. Before that, my only experience coding was in sixth grade, learning BASIC in our schools’ new computer lab on Atari 400’s. Around this time, two of my friends also had Commodore 64s, where you’d save the programs via cassette tape. Aside from that, I was a regular computer consumer like everyone else for many years.

    I chose to change professions, as the industry I had been in for almost two decades was changing. That, and my body was getting destroyed from repetitive motion injuries. I chose to start learning web design and development because I wanted to do something that had a future, and something I would enjoy doing for decades to come.

    So, I’ve been making my full-time living from web development for almost 3 1/2 years now. Still a lot to learn, but there always will be. You have to be able to pick up new things continually, which is great!



    1. Thanks for sharing John, and that’s great that you’ve made the transition and are making a living doing development. I love hearing that.


  2. 22 years? That’s funny, me too. I’ve been coding so long I’ve got calluses on my fingers. I know exactly why I got started.

    When I was a kid my Dad brought home broken circuit boards from work all the time and gave them to me and my brother to play with. As a kid I thought everyone had an oscilloscope in the basement.

    Those, along with a soldering iron and a smattering of other tools were what we called “toys” and quality time with Dad consisted of learning how to wire stuff up. We also played with lots of mechanical stuff too, but motors didn’t interest me as much as the electronics.

    Once I found out it was possible to make an IC do different things based on input I was hooked on the concept, but it wasn’t until a neighbor got a Commodore 64 that I actually started writing code. It was.. Basic (see what I did there), but it was the beginning of a lifelong fascination.

    So “why” did I start writing code? Because it was the natural evolution of the time spent with my father. His curiosity and fascination passed on to me, not just by genetics, but because he spent time with me and my brother, fostering our curiosity and encouraging us to not just learn the things he presented us with, but to understand them.


    1. Oh man, we had a Commodore 64 too! It had a broken modem so I would try to connect to BBS’s, but couldn’t until my parents got a PC. Good memories.

      Those are some great memories of your dad too. Thanks for sharing!


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