Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Get HideMyAss! VPN, PC Mag's Top 10 VPNs of 2016 for 55% off for a Limited Time ×
Education Programming The Almighty Buck IT Technology

Why Learning To Code Won't Save Your Job (fastcompany.com) 155

Over the years, several governments and organizations have become increasingly focused on teaching kids how to code. It has given rise to startups such as Codecademy, KhanAcademy and Code.org that are making it easier and more affordable for many to learn how to program. Many believe that becoming literate in code is as essential as being educated in language, science, and math. But can this guarantee you a job? And can coding help you save that job? An anonymous reader cites an interesting article on Fast Company which sheds more light into this: Looking for job security in the knowledge economy? Just learn to code. At least, that's what we've been telling young professionals and mid-career workers alike who want to hack it in the modern workforce. Unfortunately, many have already learned the hard way that even the best coding chops have their limits. More and more, 'learn to code' is looking like bad advice. Anyone competent in languages such as Python, Java, or even Web coding like HTML and CSS, is currently in high demand by businesses that are still just gearing up for the digital marketplace. However, as coding becomes more commonplace, particularly in developing nations like India, we find a lot of that work is being assigned piecemeal by computerized services such as Upwork to low-paid workers in digital sweatshops. This trend is bound to increase.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Why Learning To Code Won't Save Your Job

Comments Filter:
  • skills (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pr0nbot ( 313417 ) on Saturday March 26, 2016 @10:49AM (#51781919)

    Learning to code at school isn't just about gaining employability, any more than physical education is about becoming a professional athlete.

    An understanding of how to write software will teach skills around how to approach complex problems (decomposition, logical thinking, planning, separation of responsibilities, etc), how to troubleshoot systems (not just IT systems but other workflows), how to identify opportunities for optimisation and automation, and so on.

    • Learning to code at school isn't just about gaining employability, any more than physical education is about becoming a professional athlete.

      An understanding of how to write software will teach skills around how to approach complex problems (decomposition, logical thinking, planning, separation of responsibilities, etc), how to troubleshoot systems (not just IT systems but other workflows), how to identify opportunities for optimisation and automation, and so on.

      They didn't specifically mention in schools, more for people looking for a career, which could be upper high school or college as well. And, they're right - many people seem to get the impression that programming is an easy career that pays really well. If you're going to program, you have to put the same amount of effort into it as any other career, and I think that's what the point of the article is. It's much more competitive nowadays than the magical surveys suggest.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Learning to code at school isn't just about gaining employability, any more than physical education is about becoming a professional athlete.

      An understanding of how to write software will teach skills around how to approach complex problems (decomposition, logical thinking, planning, separation of responsibilities, etc), how to troubleshoot systems (not just IT systems but other workflows), how to identify opportunities for optimisation and automation, and so on.

      Which is why it doesn't necessarily apply to the workplace. Whilst it may be beneficial for a sysadmin to learn a bit of code (DevOps jobs are going for stupid money here in London) for an accountant not so much. In fact it may be counter productive in some professions that aren't based solely on computing/mathematical logic, like marketing, medicine or law.

      I honestly dont expect most kids to come out of school with any coding skills what so every. Definately not if they haven't done any extra curricular

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      And if you look at no-so advanced mathematics taught in school, it is blatantly obvious that most people cannot benefit from any coding "skills" at all, because they never learn them well enough. On the other hand, those capable and motivated (and both are critical to ever become a good coder) will teach themselves far better.

      Teaching everybody to code is about as useful as teaching everybody to sing opera.

      • And if you look at no-so advanced mathematics taught in school, it is blatantly obvious that most people cannot benefit from any coding "skills" at all, because they never learn them well enough.

        What's holding a lot of students back from learning Math in school is that they never get to apply the Maths. They never get their hands dirty with it. But programming will allow them to do that, and a lot of Math concepts click, once you've done some programming. Programming in school is to shore up the foundation of the Math that's already being taught.

        • by gweihir ( 88907 )

          You are kidding yourself. Most people are not able to see that writing and running code is "applying" anything. Most people are not smart enough for that. I have seen it time and again while teaching.

          • I know that they don't see that. It took me a while before I picked up on it. That's the genius of it. If instead of teaching Pre-Algebra you told the students "You get a year off of math, and we're going to do programming instead. Which is totally not math. I promise, it's a break from math." Most kids are going to cheer. It's a sneaky way to let math concepts sink in without the mental barrier of "Math is hard, and I'm not good at math".
    • by uncqual ( 836337 )

      Agreed.

      Importantly it also exposes students to the general field of software and some may discover they have a natural talent for it and like and excel at it. Some will of course figure this out on their own, but in lower income, lower education households/cultures, such "self discovery" is probably less likely due to limitations of their environment.

    • by idji ( 984038 )
      Coding is not just about programming. I simply don't care what language you use c++#,java(script),lua,vb, sql....... or whatever. it doesn't matter to me. These are all effectively the same - ways of getting ideas from human minds into bits.
      but can you sort, find, retrieve, loop, branch, recurse, encapsulate, isolate, simplify? And i am stunned that many programmers today are horrible at this - they know how to use libraries and write bloatware. I am so glad I learned algorithms in the 80's with 64k of RA
  • Bad logic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Iamthecheese ( 1264298 ) on Saturday March 26, 2016 @10:52AM (#51781925)
    Bad! Bad logic! No conclusion for you! The point of learning to code isn't to get a job coding. The point of learning to code is to be able to fluently speak the language of the workers of tomorrow. Those workers will be decidedly more metallic, simplistic, rational, and deterministic than today's workers. The person who can speak their language will be in the proper position to make the best use of their efforts.
    • The biggest mistake you can make in your education is to go to an institution to "learn something". You go to school and college to prove you know something. Learn on your own time through your own interests, it's far more valuable in terms of actual education. People that only learn in class and can't wait for it to be over, never learning or doing on their own, tend to be terrible at their jobs in any science and engineering field.
      • That doesn't follow.

        Wanting to learn stuff doesn't actively preclude learning it at a university in lecures. Hell, I went to extra lectures that weren't on my course (or were optional, unexamined material) simply because they sounded interesting.nJust because some people only want to learn in lectures they have to attend and want them to be over fast doesn't mean learning in lectures is bad, neither does it mean one shouldn't do it.

        TL;DR, university is a great place for learning stuff.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Unfortunately, these terrible people make something like 85% of the whole. But I agree, telling these people to stay the hell away from coding (or STEM in general) is a far better idea than the converse. These people often end up having negative productivity because the few competent people get bogged down cleaning up after the incompetent ones instead of being productive.

      • Institutions are very good at teaching a lot of things. Some things can be taught quickly (ever participate in corporate training?), some take time. In a good school, people who know more of the subject than you do know what things you really need to know and the best order to learn them in. If you have difficulties understanding things, there are people who understand them deeply there to explain things to you. In contrast, learning stuff on your own is likely to lead to patchier understanding at best

    • This is even worst logic.
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Aaaaaaand....FAIL! Nobody will be fluent after "learning" to code without passion, dedication and talent. Incidentally, programming languages are not a communication tool and have no use as such. The most you can get is a data-description functionality (e.g. LUA), but even that is very, very restricted as communication tool.

      Congratulation, you just added more insight-less bullshit to the pile.

  • by Marco Alvarado ( 4089331 ) on Saturday March 26, 2016 @10:53AM (#51781939)
    To code is like to know how to drive. It is important as a basic requirement in the digital era, but that's all.

    Because there are many different types of drivers, the ones can control a bicycle, a motorcycle, a small economic car, a big family car, a construction truck, a tractor, a small ship, a big petroleum container, a plane, a space shuttle, etc.

    So, it is right to know how to drive "well", but it is what happens after this basic knowledge what could or not to help you to have and to keep a job.
    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      My analogy is slightly different.

      Understanding how to use a computer, is like being able to drive. The more complex the computer, the larger / more complex the vehicles (supercomputers, etc. equate to pilots in some cases).

      Being able to make the computer do what you want, that's like being a mechanic. There's a range of skill here too, from people who can change the brake pads (most programmers who only touch the one language they've been taught) up to someone who can dismantle and rebuild any vehicle or

      • But those who can learn to code effectively enough to improve or change their career? That's a whole different kettle of fish. Like the guy who progresses from occasionally topping up the oil to someone who can strip down the whole engine to diagnosis the fault and make the car safer or faster or more efficient on the way.

        No one skill is a panacea. But another skill never hurts.

        pr0nbot (313417) includes something interesting also:

        ... how to identify opportunities ...

        We, as humans, need to adapt to survive. Before was important, when trying to catch a deer or to escape from a tigger, to learn how to use an arrow or to locate the wind direction, skills that could make a life/death difference; but now one of the basic skills is to "control" a computerised device (more than to learn now to code), because these computers became ubiquitous.

    • To code is like to know how to drive. It is important as a basic requirement in the digital era, but that's all.

      Horseshit. You can live your entire life quite sucesfully in the "digital era" without knowing anything about coding or writing a single line of code.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        On the other hand, if you think you can "code", you may have learned just enough to be dangerous to yourself and others.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Hahahaha, that so far removed from reality, it is really funny!

  • Protectionism. Tariffs. The end of Work Visa programs and if need be all but a few immigration programs. We take care of our own first. Let them leave. America is a resource rich country. They can leave, but they don't get to take the ball home. Taxes. Massive taxes to take back internal capital from the ones that leave.

    Or we could just roll over and die. Pretend like the market can somehow be free and do nothing as workers to protect our quality of life as we hang desperately onto the principles of Lai
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by spyfrog ( 552673 )

      I have news for you. I live in a country that used to be social democratic. It worked somewhat up until the 70-ties. Then it began to not work as well because of the first globalization movement.

      After the fall of Soviet union, it stopped to work completely. The richest people in the world then got to run the world, through especially your country. They implemented total globalization - a scheme to transfer wealth from the average working man/women to the ruling 1 per mille that now decides (there is no "one

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The Left, as it is practiced today, is apparently all for "immigration" programs.

      Take a look at Europe. I'm not sure what the agenda is there, whether it's importing cheap labour, increasing the pool of left-leaning voters, a guilt-driven attempt to right their wrongs, or an insidious attempt to induce instability in the countries in order to further the police state and control fetishes of the elite. America is doing the same, but with the primary source being Mexico.

      Regardless, makes it damned hard to tak

    • Sorry, I believe the above mentioned solutions will not happen. It goes against every principle that the current "World Order" is attempting to accomplish. How else can you bring the rest of the world out of "Third World" status. The current means are to redistribute the wealth of the top countries to them. That is socialistic in nature but at an entire planet level. Are you saying that Mr Sanders would forsake his ideology and only apply it to the US?
      • You know what I'd be all for that, if it were happening evenly across the board. But why should it be the US middle class that bears most of the burden of curing the third world?
    • Our non-protectionist policy's are more effective diplomatic and aid tools than sealing ourselves off from the rest of the world and hoping that USAID donations will pull the third world into prosperity.
      • by jopsen ( 885607 )

        Our non-protectionist policy's are more effective diplomatic and aid tools than sealing ourselves off from the rest of the world and hoping that USAID donations will pull the third world into prosperity.

        So true... Just take the trade between the US, EU and China, it makes war unthinkable for all parties, that's nice :)
        (despite what anyone says war is not good for the economy unless you are neutral and selling to both sides - and we can't all be neutral)

    • by jopsen ( 885607 )
      Protectionism is hardly the answer. It would quickly lock you out of the international markets.

      Find a balance, yes, you need to reduce abuse of VISA programs. But you also have to recognize that a place like the Bay area would not exist if it weren't for the steady influx of talent from around the world.
      When people can't get an H1B for San Francisco they end up in Toronto or London instead. Don't think there isn't a line of cities trying to become the next tech hub :)

      Besides America needs to sell produ
      • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

        Use protectionism as a negotiating tool, not as an end-goal. Threaten to tariff trade of low-wage countries if they don't encourage local consumerism, have labor/safety/pollution laws, and/or increase their exchange rate.

        They often artificially tilt things toward low wages so that their population doesn't riot. Jobs are more important to their populations than cheap stuff. We seem to have it reversed.

  • How is this outsourcing different from any other type of job? Might as well tell them to not bother with getting educated at all because "India". It makes about as much sense.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 26, 2016 @11:17AM (#51782023)

    There is a very simple formula for getting and/or keeping a job:

              problems_you_solve > problems_you_create

    Keep this equation in balance by minimizing the right-hand-side (RHS) and maximizing the left-hand-side (LHS).

    As an employee, you will inevitably create problems for your employer. Most notably you will expect to be paid. Other unavoidable problems include the onerous government paperwork that is required for each employee and the legal liability of keeping you as an employee. These problems are unavoidable. To help minimize the RHS, however, you should avoid creating unnecessary problems. This means being reliable, honest, and getting along with other employees and with customers.

    There is only so much you can do to minimize the RHS of the formula. But there is no bound on maximizing the LHS.

    These days, many employers think (rightly or wrongly) that they have programming problems that need solving. So if you are able to write code, then that might help increase the LHS of the equation. Note, however, that this only works if you are good enough of a programmer to actually solve real problems. Having completed a coding bootcamp, or having a diploma in computer-science, helps but does not guarantee that you can solve real problems. And that is the crux of the issue. Employers want problems to be solved. They don't really care about your credentials, they care about capabilities and your willingness to apply those capabilities to productive ends.

    So, yes, the article is correct in pointing out that learning to code is not a magic recipe for making you more employable. To the extent that learning to code can help you become a better problem solver, then it is valuable. But if you emerge from boot-camp with no new problem solving skills then you have indeed wasted your time.

    On the flip side, learning to code usually involves doing lots of problem-solving exercises. And the best way to become a better problem-solver is to practice solving problems. So learning to code may well make you more employable even if you never touch a computer again.

    It comes down to focus: If your reason for learning to code just so that you can say that you have learned to code, then that is probably not going to help you are anybody else. But if you are learning to code as an exercise in improving your problem-solving skills, then that are likely to benefit both you and society.

  • These stories have been around forever. There are armies of minions going around canvassing for kids with developer skills. It's tosh.
    I have a degree in Computer Science and just finished a post grad in same and I can assure you I can develop. Despite thousands of applications for developer jobs over the years, all I ever got was one developer interview and even though I completed the programming challenges they asked of me, I still didn't go any further.

    I work as a business analyst at present under contrac

  • "Looking for job security in the knowledge economy? Just learn to code."

    This is like telling a farmer to learn aircraft engine maintenance for job security. Or telling a plumber to learn knitting to ensure he keeps his job.

    NOT EVERY JOB REQUIRES KNOWING HOW TO CODE. Stop telling us that it does.

  • I'm concerned that they'll teach coding the same way that many schools teach math. Reinvent the paradigms every few years, require extensive retraining of all the latest teachers in the latest paradigm, and care more about the fad than about the basic skills.

    For reference, I've linked to Tom Lehrer's "New Math" song:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    And one must remember:

    The important thing is to understand what you'

  • Learning to code might not "save" your job directly, but (for certain fields, anyway) it can definitely make you a more valuable employee.

    I've lost count of the number of times I've come across a coworker doing something that's taking forever, and a little time spent automating the task (even if it's a one-off) saved gobs of time.

    • That is bang-on. I've seen hours wasted as someone tries to pair names and addresses from a spreadsheet that has gotten mis-aligned in some way or countless other tasks that can be achieved with a few lines of throw away python or awk.

      I see coding as a form of communication, maybe a way to communicate intent to a machine but also a reasonable way to communicate domain-specific knowledge to an expert outsider.

      There would be far fewer screw ups in procuring complex systems if the people that have been doing

  • Unfortunately, many have already learned the hard way that even the best coding chops have their limits.

    It all depends on your butcher and if you picked lamb, pork or veal chops.

  • by CAOgdin ( 984672 ) on Saturday March 26, 2016 @12:39PM (#51782325)

    Probably, because our Legislators, largely still ignorant about computer "innards" can't understand it. We need population-wide, overarching understanding of systems, and how to design them. Coding is just capturing design in code. I'm amazed at the number of people who think "feedback" is either your critique of their latest ill-formed idea, or the sound that speakers make when the sound gets into the microphone. They have no concept of how "feedback" is--in the language of systems design and cybernetics--a much broader concept. The notions of sequence, iteration, conditional execution, and formal definition of values are utterly beyond most of today's adults, but second nature to those of us who'd learned how to translate those system implementations into reliable code. Teaching coding is about giving kids a tool set, and an old car, and say, "Go to it, kid!" They don't understand what the transmission is for, or the principals behind a crankshaft, no matter how many times they unbolt parts, and bolt them back on. Sure, they know that you're supposed to used a "torque wrench," but they seldom understand the concept of "torque" and why it's important...which is why the "shade tree mechanic's" only wrench is a pipe wrench.

    If our electorate is to understand governments, and businesses, and economies are systems, they need to understand what systems are, and how they work, and how they can go wrong. Teaching them coding is just rote learning, and it imparts a false sense of "understanding" what systems are all about.

  • Then learn to code. If you do not know what you are doing coding is pointless.

  • This only makes sense if the number of jobs which use computers to solve problems is limited. Thus far, the reality seems to be that it's growing exponentially.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Saturday March 26, 2016 @01:27PM (#51782513)

    I always figured teaching everyone to code was to enable a future where everyone earned money by hacking ATMs, the few people that could not learn to code would have jobs refilling ATMs.

  • by rbrander ( 73222 ) on Saturday March 26, 2016 @02:08PM (#51782701) Homepage

    I keep reading everything here commenting on the paradigm that your job becomes coding; that you're just in competition with generic coders in India or the IT department for that matter. It's all about "coding" as a specialty, as a job in itself.

    That's the problem. That has to stop. It's hurting corporations terribly, keeping them from realizing the full benefits of personal computing.

    We acquired personal computing technology, but corporations remained in a paradigm of corporate computing development, where the corporation develops all applications as a body corporate, using specialists to do all the coding. It was actually an *offense* in my old employer for non-programmers to program. People had tools taken away, accounts cancelled.

    You don't learn to code so that you can become a coder; you learn to code so that you become an accountant, technician, engineer, salesman, secretary...who can code and script their job. How much more productive is an engineer who can do Excel VBA from one who only knows your basic spreadsheet formulas? How many more documents can a secretary manage who can put together a small, three-table database? She becomes the *key* secretary everybody goes to, the one who gets things done, the one who gets the promotion, is the last one fired.

    It worked for me; I actually got a CompSci degree but only ever called myself an engineer; I was just an engineer who knew EXACTLY what he wanted from IT and could insist on it...or do it myself if they weren't agreeable (which tends to make them more agreeable). I only ever wrote bash, Perl, and SQL scripts, but automated vast amounts of my job with just that. Oh, yeah, and Excel VBA, of course, which probably doubled my engineering productivity. I taught every engineer who worked for me to do SQL and basic scripts and sent them off all able to automate basic tasks. I believe they all see themselves as more productive and employable for it.

  • As has been depressingly reprised here ad nauseam, your coding, admin or support job is just another H1B away.
    I got into project management, then sales, then management, then consulting.
    Still enjoy getting into the tech now and then, but that's not what pays the bills.
    If your value-add is up-front visible you're never out going to be out of a job.

  • Ok, coding != software development, ...

    But considering that it's usual to expect a new software developer to take 4-8 weeks to start being productive, I somehow don't see tickets being distributed via Amazon Turk to some Indian coders, ....

  • Since the 90's programming has become about minutiae, and not about problem solving. "Programmers" strive to please web forums full of their socially-awkward-but-now-connected peers, rather than their bosses. They test each other during interviews to make sure they are hiring someone autistic who has learned some useless facts rather than looking for people who can solve problems and talk to people. They saddle their employers with flavor-of-the-week technologies because they are so afraid of doing somethin

  • It's also the same players doing the sweatshopping that are pushing the coding. Both are designed to lower their costs.

"Necessity is the mother of invention" is a silly proverb. "Necessity is the mother of futile dodges" is much nearer the truth. -- Alfred North Whitehead

Working...