Here's why you should learn a coding language

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Written by David Kuntz on 16 April 2021 in Opinion
Opinion

David Kuntz urges us to consider learning coding to open up new opportunities.

Code runs through all our lives, and this dependency will only increase over time. Even if it doesn’t seem like part of your daily role today, learning a coding language can strengthen your career by opening up new opportunities, new ways of thinking, and a greater understanding of your colleagues’ work.

Indeed, as Steve Jobs once said “I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think. I view computer science as a liberal art.”

Changing the way you work

Learning to code won’t just impart technical knowledge, it will also change the way you work. You’ll develop new approaches to problem-solving and collaborating, and will become more self-sufficient.

Knowing a coding language, for example, could help you set up a new landing page or data dashboard without asking a designer or engineer. You could also iterate more quickly and experiment with different formats and tools.

Improving collaboration with colleagues

Your collaboration skills will also improve. Working with engineers, programmers and data scientists becomes easier when you have a shared understanding and a common language. Understanding coding can give you a better idea of what’s achievable within proposed timelines. It can also steer expectations.

Coding knowledge will also take your career to the next level. It can open up a world of new options

More effective decision-making

Having an understanding of coding languages, their capabilities and limitations, will also guide you when making decisions about investing in emerging technologies. You can more accurately assess the business case for each technology and set realistic expectations.

Similarly, having coding skills will enable you to evaluate and distinguish between harder solutions, and easier ones.

Opening new opportunities

Of course, having coding knowledge will also take your career to the next level. It can open up a world of new options, whether that’s a lateral career move into a new business area or moving up through promotion.

Top developers in the UK can expect to earn 145% more than the UK’s average salary. But such career progression goes beyond pay and perks. Having more options available to you means you can shape your career in a way that truly suits your aspirations, interests, lifestyle and commitments.

 

What coding skills to learn

With this in mind, what coding skills should you start with? Recent data from the Degreed platform shows that the top 10 skills, ranked by software engineers as vital to doing their work well are:

  1. Java
  2. Python
  3. Programming
  4. Software Architecture
  5. Machine Learning
  6. Software Engineering
  7. Artificial Intelligence
  8. Software Testing
  9. SQL
  10. Linux

What’s intriguing about the list, is that there isn’t much variation in programming skills across different business sectors. The order of the top 10 list varies a little, but the skills listed remain consistent.

As long as you have an understanding of the general domain, complemented by good communication skills and knowledge of how to build maintainable software, additional languages can be learned as needed. Once you’ve learned one language, learning another comes pretty quickly as the concepts often remain the same.

Finding the right talent

Although it might seem counterintuitive, for employers, the consistency of skills across sectors means that finding the right coding talent shouldn’t always involve looking externally or relying on traditional recruitment.

Inside the organisation, someone with the right coding skills may be available to be internally mobilised from another department. And, of course, upskilling employees who want to learn to code, or learn new languages, is often an efficient and effective option.

How to learn coding skills

As for learning such coding skills, there is a variety of learning content available to suit all styles and budgets. These include online courses and learning pathways, books, bootcamps, and even coding games that can introduce you to some of the concepts. Video options are plentiful, ranging from interviews where programmers share their thinking and solutions to YouTubers live streaming their coding sessions.

Instead of focusing on specific programming languages at the start, it can be useful to first build your skills in pattern recognition, algorithms, loops and abstractions. The better you understand these foundational concepts, the easier it will be to learn a coding language, collaborate with programming teams, and design better projects.

Time to reassess and build your skills

It’s always worth reassessing your skills throughout your career, as the demands of your role and your career opportunities evolve. This is critical now: today’s digitally-driven workplace requires technical skills in every role and at every level.

By learning programming concepts and skills, you will gain not just new programming skills, but a new perspective on creating solutions,  and can work more effectively with teammates. As emerging technologies come to the fore, your knowledge of coding concepts will help you decide what solutions to invest in and understand how to work effectively with such tools.

Having a fundamental knowledge of coding will make you better at your current job and can help future-proof your career.

 

About the author

David Kuntz is Head of Data Science at Degreed.

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