Try your brain at programming - It might change your life

  2015-01-04


Q: Why should I try programming?
A: Because it’s freaken awesome!

Every so often I get the opportunity to punt programming as a possible career choice for young people. I frequently get the “you’re not serious?” look. People seem to either think it is boring, like accounting, or too hard, like molecular physics. :P

Thinking back to when I was at high school, and first heard about programming, I guess I can understand that to a degree. I had these smart buddies that were into programming, but for some reason in my mind it was something far beyond me, and possibly as a result, not something that seemed interesting to me. I had no real clue what it was about. Only at the age of about 21 or 22 did I discover it, and I suddenly knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. If only somebody had taken the time to expose me to it properly while I was still at school!

It is shocking that so few kids are exposed to good quality education about programming at school in this century.

Is it like school work? I hated school work.

I hated school work too. No, if you have the aptitude and the interest for it, then it is the opposite of school work. It is fun!

So, why is it awesome?

Because it is creative

It is the blend of logic and creativity that can result and the elegant solution to real-world problems. Many people do not realise that programming is an immensely creative process. Yes, you need logic, and lots of it, but you also need loads of creativity. In that way it is similar to engineering, or structural architecture, or carpentry. In all of those you apply logic in creative ways to produce something new and amazing and useful. What makes programming more powerful is the substance you shape code. It is a substance that is magical and flexible, that gives you the finest control into the most intricate and complicated things. It is something ethereal that can influence and affect the physical. And software is used in engineering, and structural architecture, and carpentry, and in ten thousand other fields. Software can super impose over almost any other field you might also be interested in.

Because it is intellectually stimulating

If you do not like thinking… well, maybe think twice about becoming a programmer. Take note though, I had no clue I liked intellectually stimulating things when I ran into programming. Now I cannot live without it.

Because it shapes the world

Software is ubiquitous (look up that word if you do not know what it means). It is not going away. In fact, already almost every single part of our lives are touched by some piece of software in some way. And it is only going to increase. It is a field with an incredible future.

Because it puts you in the driver’s seat

It is going to shape the world with or without you. Becoming a programmer, will allow you to help shape it. Just knowing how to program, even if you do not become a professional programmer, gives you a mental advantage in the way you interact with the world of software controlled devices and systems, and the general approach to problem solving. There is a book about that worth reading: Program or be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff.

Do I need to be a maths genius?

Not at all. While there are some specialised fields of programming that require advanced mathematics knowledge, most do not.

Is it for everybody?

No, but everybody should try it to make sure either way. It’s not something you want to miss out on if it is for you.

Will it take up a lot of time to learn?

Anything of worth will take up a lot of time to become an expert at. However, you only need to put in a lot of time if you want to become an expert at it. It does not take a lot of time at all to try it out. 1 hour to get a small taste. 1 hour per day for 2 weeks to get a better idea. It will be time well invested.

And it’s not hard?

Is talking hard? Is driving a car hard? Is playing a guitar hard? All of those things were hard when you started, now they are easy. Programming is the same. Actually, in some ways programming is the other way round. Getting started is really easy. Later, when you get deeper into it, there are some things that get harder, but if you get there you won’t care, as you will only get there if you have been gripped by it.

How do I get into it?

There are so many amazing and free resources these days. All you need is a computer, a connection to the internet, and a willingness to try.

Codecademy is a good place to start. You can start coding right now in the browser. Nothing to install. They take you step by step, and it is free. Take 1 hour, and go do it. Then, take 9 more hours, to really get a taste.

I recommend starting with either JavaScript, Python, or Ruby. (Those are all programming languages)

Read some of the Codecademy Stories about what people have achieved by learning to code.

If you want more, check this out: Top 10 Websites to Learn Coding (Interactively) Online

Watch this awesome short video: What Most Schools Don’t Teach

Conclusion

It doesn’t matter if you are still at school, or if you are at university studying something you are not deeply interested in because you have not found that thing yet, or if you are working in a job or field that you are not enjoying, learning how to code might just perhaps be that thing that opens the door to a whole new world for you. And, after investing 5 or 10 or 50 hours into it, and it turns out not to be fun for you at all, well, that is totally fine too. At least you know then.

If this post in any way assisted you in trying your brain at programming, I would love it if you let me know how it turned out for you. Or if you have questions.

Go have fun!

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