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.
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).
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?