5 reasons why coding is a skill you should learn in 2017

There is a misconception that you have to be good at math to be able to learn to build software. Here are a few reasons why you should make learning code one of your goals for the year.
(Credit: Getty Images)

Technology is everywhere in today's society. We're constantly inundated with the message that yes, there is an app for whatever need we may have. We are encouraged to do more and more of our financial, legal and recreational tasks online. The Internet isn't just for cat pictures anymore, it is the backbone of how we interact with our world. A common theme of many conferences and lectures recently is that every company is a tech company. From Starbucks to Delta to Yellow Cab, those companies rely on software to be able to not only deliver their products and services to consumers, but also to open lines of communication both internally and externally. Social media has changed the way that we share information between friends and family and created a new landscape for companies to be able to engage with their customers in meaningful ways.

Opportunity creates need, though. With a push to integrate technology into both our personal and professional lives, a need for software that fulfills all of the many requirements has been created. Unfortunately, there is a misconception that you have to be good at math to be able to learn to build software. I want to discuss a few reasons why I believe that if you make 2017 your year to learn to code, it will not only be a goal you can achieve, but also a goal that will make your life better.

1. Improving your digital literacy is important

Digital literacy is your ability to manage information successfully, using technology. Learning to code means that you are automatically going to become more in tune with your computer. You will explore more tools and applications than you would use on a daily basis as an average home user, and that will translate to an improvement in your digital literacy. This not only will improve your own usage of your day to day technology, but it means that when you are exposed to new tech, you will be more eager to adopt it and experiment with it.

To give a very real-world example of this, consider the touch screen order systems that many fast food chains are installing in their restaurants. Our comfort and familiarity with smartphones and tablets allows us to approach and use these with relative ease, even if we have never seen an application like this before. We recognize the requirements of the interface and change our behaviour accordingly.

2. If you can learn another language, you can learn to code

Scientific studies have been done in both Germany and the United States which have proven that the same areas of the brain that we use to process other written and spoken languages, such as Spanish or Korean, are the same parts of the brain which we use for understanding coding. The term 'programming languages' makes sense, in this context. These are languages that we use to communicate, however instead of communicating between two people, we are communicating between a person and a device. The programming language that we use is our way of telling the computer what it is that we want it to do.

This addresses one of the most common frustrations people express about the prospect of learning to code; the idea roots itself in people's minds that the computer is in control somehow. Nothing could be further from the truth. In my experience, computers are actually notorious for doing exactly what we have told them to do. Most of the errors that occur when using a computer are user-created. If you passed Grade 10 French, you can learn to code. And then you are the one telling the computer exactly what you want it to do.

(Credit: Getty Images)

3. It is a skill that will always be relevant

As discussed before, every company has a technology component to it. Understanding the intricacies of how software works means that the ever-increasing demand in every industry can be served by the knowledge acquired. There will always be a need for developers, because our need for apps and software is steadily growing. Regardless of what background you have, the ability to contribute to software means that you are always employable, always able to create and advance technology and always able to be on the cutting edge of innovation.

4. It makes you a creator of the Internet, not just a consumer

If you have ever felt that you were at the mercy of the software on your computer, then learning to code is the easiest and quickest way to rid yourself of that negative perception. Not only does knowing how to code mean that you are able to solve your own problems and craft solutions to your standards and needs, but it also means that you now have the ability to craft solutions for other people. In the words of the great inventor Nikola Tesla, speaking in 1896, "I do not think there is any thrill than can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success." Knowing how to code makes you a stakeholder in the world of technology, instead of just a consumer.

5. It opens up a world of possibilities

Whether it is for personal growth and development, career advancement, career change, or just a desire to improve digital literacy, knowledge of how software works and the ability to contribute to developing new software means that there is no limit to the impact that you can have. I have seen people build apps for family weddings, apps and games have been coded and presented as gifts for birthdays, and people have gotten significant salary increases by taking on responsibility for their company's web or mobile presence. Quite literally, you have the ability to make the world a better place and solve problems for others. What could be better than that?

Learn the basics of code for free by signing up for the HTML500 event series, 1 day event happening across the country: http://www.thehtml500.com/

And, it's never too early to learn to code. An offshoot of Ladies Learning Code, Girls Learning Code and Kids Learning Code have classes across Canada on weekends, major holidays, March break and special Summer Camp programs too.

Don Burks is the Head Coding Instructor at Lighthouse Labs, leading and mentoring web development bootcamps out of Vancouver