Once upon a time, the world was supposed to end. At the stroke of midnight in the year 2000, there would either be the rapture, or an apocalypse of sorts. Twelve years later, on December 12, 2012, the world was scheduled for another end. Folks hoarded water and canned goods, and refused to leave their homes because they were convinced it was true this time. That, my friends, is the immobilizing power of a myth. Much like the fake things some people believe about learning to code. And just like the 2000 and 2012 “apocalypses,” the misconceptions about learning to code keep your world smaller than it needs to be.
The misconceptions about learning to code stem from the belief that tech is for that other guy, not me. Some think that their age and/or gender keeps them from being able to truly grasp it. Humans tend to be intimidated by things and people that are smarter than they are. But here’s the thing: computers are actually dumb. They just do what we tell them. But our misconceptions keep us at an arm’s length from the coding side of technology (which we can’t live without), and weirdly flippant about the fact that computers may one day take over the world. We’re cool with apps that make our lives easier, but we don’t care about learning how to develop one ourselves.
When it comes to technology and learning to code, there are widely known truths and widely held untruths. The known truths are these: computers are intimidating; people in the technology field make more money; there will be 1.4 million jobs in the tech field by 2020 and women are on course to fill only 3% of them; 92% of software developers are men; technology keeps the individual and the society competitive. Below are some of the widely held untruths and misconceptions about learning to code:
“I’m not good at computers or technology”
A popular misconception about learning to code is that people are born good at computers. Some people are, but for a good chunk of humans, it’s a learning curve. And with regular practice and/or constant exposure, you can get used to anything. Throwback to 2010 when Facebook looked way different than it does now, and seemed to change every other day. When it changed, folks were up in arms, swearing up and down that Facebook is now too different. Surely they could never get used to the change! Fast forward to 2017, and only a handful can remember what Facebook even looked like before. Because eventually, the change became integrated into their life and what was different at first became the norm. Humans were more or less built for change; and anybody can become good at computers and technology and learn to code with practice.
“I’m too old”
There is a saying “you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.” But that saying was coined, I’m sure, by an old dog who didn’t want to learn new tricks because she wanted a break from playing with the children who wouldn’t leave her alone. It’s a myth that older people are out of touch with newer developments. In fact, old people learn and do new things all the time. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, almost 20% of all undergrad and grad students are people over 35, a percentage estimated to rise even more by 2020. Jens Skou, a Nobel Prize Winner, picked up programming at the age of 70. And would it blow your mind to find out that “after comparing a small sample of [senior computer training] students with a control group, researchers at the University of Miami found that after completing introductory courses, older adults were significantly more comfortable with and knowledgeable about computers and the Internet, and more likely to use them”? So not being able to do it because you’re “too old” is yet another misconception about learning to code.
“I won’t get a good job if I didn’t major in it in college”
There has been lots of debate about whether or not coding bootcamps are effective. Some assume that if you haven’t studied it at a traditional four-year institution then you’re not worth your salt. Indeed, there was (and probably still is, a little bit) a stigma against coders who learned at the former versus the latter. And thus, a misconception about learning to code was born. But Obama to the rescue: he initiated a program called TechHire, which is geared towards training more developers to fill the growing number of positions needed by 2020. (Gainesville Dev Academy was designated a TechHire city in 2016.) This program provides incentives for bootcamps to train more developers and encourages companies to partner up and hire more coders, regardless of where they learned. Which means plenty of bootcamp grads are getting jobs. Stats show that 75% of bootcamp graduates have bene placed in jobs that require the skills they learned in bootcamp. Gainesville Dev Academy, for example, takes job placement very seriously. At the end of each course, we host a demo day, in which our students can show-off the apps they built to potential employers, who sometimes hire them on the spot.
“Girls don’t code/Tech isn’t for girls”
Girl, bye. We’ve talked about the lack of gender diversity in tech, the possible reasons for this, and why we at Gainesville Dev Academy want to be part of the change. Tech has been seen as a male sphere; statistics, commercials, and popular culture support this. However, back in the day, coding was women’s work. The first computer programmer was written by a woman named Ada Lovelace. Some of the earliest English language programming code was written by a woman named Grace Hopper. And as Hidden figures showed, black women were integral to the success of the US space program. Until 1984, women dominated the tech field and were responsible for most technological advancements. Why it slowed down after that date is still up for debate. But women pioneered and innovated so much much in this field, that “women don’t code” is one of the biggest misconceptions about learning to code. Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and Gainesville Dev Academy’s own #WomenCoders initiative all try to change the culture, increase the numbers, and get more women back into coding.
“It isn’t relevant to me.”
LOL, amirite? Technology is pretty much always relevant. It infiltrates almost every aspect of your lives, especially in this here 2017. You probably don’t go anywhere without your phone; you use your laptop daily and without you would just *die*. You can always benefit from learning to code, not just financially, but in terms of problem solving and helping to build the future we are inevitably being thrust into by Father Time. The more averse you are to learning code, the more you will have to depend on others for their knowledge of technology. And technology will continue to progress. Even in your current job, knowing more about coding and technology can give you more autonomy and help you scale the ranks more. It. Is. Always. Relevant.
“It isn’t creative.”
This is one of the most annoying misconceptions about learning to code. Coding is one of the most creative endeavors because it makes so many things possible. It literally creates something out of nothing. You have to think of new ways to do things or how to make old things better. That’s super creative. Coding is responsible for all the apps you just can’t live without, for the websites you visit daily. Ask Siri “what is zero divided by zero?” or “Tell me a poem” and see what she says. Google “Dev Art” and see what you get. Google in and of itself is a work of creative genius. Imagine what you could do with that power.
You’ve probably heard how how hard it is to learn. How much dedication it takes, how much time you’ll have to commit to it if you want to take it seriously and if you want to be taken seriously. These are not lies. The best way to learn is to 1. immerse yourself into the environment where it’s spoken, and 2. practice. It isn’t easy (which, interestingly enough, is one of the misconceptions about learning to code). But the juice is worth the squeeze. In terms of how much you’ll be able to do, how much you can get paid, and how much good you’ll be able to change the world. Coding can open doors for you and step your life game up.
Just like you shouldn’t let fear of the end of the world keep you from leaving your house, don’t let the misconceptions about learning to code keep you from a class. Come learn with us at Gainesville Dev Academy and join our tech community.