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Matt Fates: Coding might soon be the new typing

Ascent Venture Partners

In a few years, just as typing became requirement for workplace success, coding might become a prerequisite for job advancement and a thriving career in many fields, argues Matt Fates of Ascent Venture Partners. Read more of his writing on the Ascent blog.

For years the tech community has been concerned about worker shortages, especially programmers and engineers. Fast-growing software companies always bemoan the challenges of finding skilled workers, and have tried to fill the gap by recruiting from abroad, and even by offering significant signing bonuses (see Hubspot’s $30,000 offer for someone who refers a developer). Still, with so many people in the U.S. who are out of work, there exists a very frustrating paradox. As always, it’s a matter of matching the right job skills with the industry’s needs, but this is never easy. And while some complain that jobs have been outsourced to foreign nations, there are plenty of different jobs here in the U.S. How do we solve this?

It would be ridiculous to suggest there is a simple way. But one trend that could have a positive impact is free online programming courses. As legacy industries continue to struggle, there may be new opportunities for those workers to retrain themselves and build software instead of physical things. Software languages like Python, JavaScript and Ruby are becoming easier to learn, and offer an opportunity to get started in a promising field. As a former programmer and computer science major (in the mid-90’s), I recently decided to refresh my skills at CodeAcademy and was surprised at how easy and effective such online offerings are.

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(Other, more in-depth coding “boot camps” have sprung up all over North America, with one such program reporting that 86 percent of its first class has found developer work in less than two months.)

Again, it’s not easy to develop new skills, and programming may not be compatible with everyone, but not all coding requires rocket scientists, and it is more accessible than ever. And while some might say technology has passed them by or that you “can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” I disagree. The technology world moves quickly, but there is still plenty of time to learn and it is worth the effort if it leads to a new or higher paying job. Commitment and hard work can pay off and open doors to new opportunities in a new economy.

And for those who already have a degree or enjoy a successful career, it may be worth adding programming as a skill on their resume. For example, you could be a product marketer who could also help your company build out a website, or an accountant who could write macros to help automate the analysis of spreadsheets, allotting more time for higher level challenges.

While having a programming skill can distinguish you today, it could very well be essential tomorrow. It’s like typing. Thirty years ago, it was taught as a course in high school and someone proficient would list it as a skill. Today, it is presumed that anyone can type quickly. Coding could go the same way. Until then, why not get and stay ahead of the curve?

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