Coding is the must-have job skill of the future

Ngoc Huynh

Fast forward to 2020. What job skill must you have? Coding.

Well, we may be getting ahead of ourselves slightly. It’s uncertain that HTML and CSS in their current form will be on the menu of the next decade. But what we do know is, for the foreseeable future, coding is one of the most important and desirable skills there is, no matter how it evolves.

Coding is the new black. And it’s getting so hot that there are a slew of startups focusing on teaching coding — to your kids.

For those of us grown up and out of grammar school, there are two schools of thought: specialized education programs or teaching yourself. School can be both expensive and time consuming. While hitting the books at home via online courses is significantly cheaper, it’s also draining, as there’s no one to copy answers off of.

Like anything daunting, there may be some understandable hesitation about just how to jump in the water. And some basic questions to answer.

Why should you learn how to code? And where do you start?

Asher Hunt, leading mobile designer at customer engagement management company LivePerson (formerly Look.IO), sees at it as a way to control the visual UI/UX (user interface, user experience) of a site.

“Learning HTML and CSS creates a really valuable way for people to efficiently design for the web,” explains Hunt. For learning CSS keystrokes, he suggests getting started with syntax and browser animations. “I say this because understanding those languages provides understandings of their limitations, and general capabilities. For every pixel I put down in photoshop, I know exactly how I’m going to code that in HTML and CSS.”

The value of coding is learning how to use data to drive decisions, says C.J. Windisch, lead engineer and co-founder of location-based app GonnaBe.

“We see it everywhere from statistical analysis in baseball to politics with Barack Obama’s data-driven election team,” Windisch says. “Understanding data at that scale requires a computer to run numbers, not a calculator. In today’s big data world, that means coding.”

Windisch suggests geting your feet wet with Treehouse, a startup featuring instructional videos.

Mike Murray, GonnaBe’s lead iOS developer, says proficiency in coding allows programmers to be able “to modify the technology they work with, without aid from others,” thereby increasing their value to employers, and saving valuable funds.

It’s all about big data, agrees Jad Meouchy, CTO at the smartphone survey company Osurv Mobile Research. And mastering that data can be the difference between success and failure in the startup world.

“A new coder better understand what that means and how to handle it,” Meouchy explains. “Every company has access to a gold mine of consumer insight in the form of analytics, social networks, activity logs, et cetera. The challenge in managing that information is developing a process to extract high-value bits and act on them quickly.”

Meouchy says the key for beginners is to learn about databases, starting with basic SQL syntax. From there he suggests working “your way up to complex joins, and take a cautious peek at the new anti-SQL movement.” He warns that “when solving actual business problems, stick to the fundamentals and avoid trendy, flashpan tech. If you do it right, the skillset you develop should last a decade.”

If this is too jargony for you, fear not. Here’s a real-life, layman’s-terms example of a regretful tech entrepreneur who didn’t learn. GonnaBe’s CEO and cofounder Hank Leber calls coding the new literacy. It’s the battle of “the tech literate vs. the tech illiterate. And ‘literacy’ won’t refer to one’s ability to read about new technology or report on it, but creating it.”

Leber cites the growing unemployment rate and diminishing prospects for newly-minted college graduates as motivators.

“Not learning to code has been the biggest misstep of my academic and professional life,” he says. “Had I learned it when I was in my early twenties, I’d have been 10 times as effective as a leader and businessperson. Hindsight is 20/20, but let this be foresight for young people: If you can stomach it, learn to code. You won’t regret it.”

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