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Should You Learn to Program?

9 February 2016 | by Fanny Bourel | Boost your Career

Computer science developers are treated like royalty in a world where technology is omnipresent. Voices are speaking up that programming should be generally taught to the entire population. But, is knowing how to code really essential for your CV?

Michael Reid—coordinator of the computer science and operational research department at Université de Montréal—and his colleagues notably teach students wanting to learn how write lines of computer code from a variety of professional backgrounds. However, he does not consider learning to code essential for everyone. He explains, “It’s mainly necessary in automated fields of work. For example, it is in the interest of robot repair technician, on an assembly line, to learn how to modify a robot’s software, not only how to fix its mechanics.”

Taking orders

Even if knowing how to program has not become necessary, partly mastering computer code gives a worker the possibility of automating some tasks and performing better. For example, instead of repeating the same Excel sequence manipulations, a finance or accounting professional can save time by writing a program allowing everything to be done in a single process. Reid states, “A teacher can automate student assessments instead of doing it by hand.” 

Having programming skills has consequently turned passive users, dependent on software, into an active users being able to adapt technology—due to a better understanding of its logic, structure, and design—to their needs. Instead of having to rely on the baker for your bread, you can learn to bake it.

Furthermore, people who learned rudimentary code claim their acquired knowledge has moulded their logical thinking, sharpened their common sense, and let them get more out of their digital tools. Technology’s role and place at the heart of our lives is still growing and some people see the benefits teaching coding can bring to future jobs.

Speaking programmer

Developing a basic knowledge also proves to be very useful, notably for people working with programmers. Reid clarifies, “Sometimes it’s hard to communicate with them, because computer scientists don’t always fully understand the point of the application that they are developing.” “For example, they can have issues formulating an exact estimate with little marketing and management knowledge which—at the end of the day—can be problematic during contract execution." Having an understanding of programming at your disposal can establish a connection with developers working to obtain the best product. For example, making sure software or a website produced by an external contractor complies with their needs.

Until computer science education is standardized in Quebec, nothing is stopping people interested in programming from taking the bull by the horns and tackling the task. Websites like Code Academy, Khan Academy and Code.org offer online courses.

But—even with this computer programming enthusiam—we must not forget that even though becoming a good coder is relatively easy, it still demands time and practice. Just because we know how to bake bread does not mean we can successfully open a bakery.

 
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