February 17, 2012

...Learn TDD with Codemanship

Kids - You Don't Need Anyone's Permission To Learn To Program

I've been hearing from various concerned parents scattered around and about the countryside that their kids are being blocked from studying computing by their schools.

I had no doubt that there'd be schools for whom programming and computer science was not going to be a priority, but it's disappointing to hear there are schools that aren't prepared to lift a finger to help kids who really want to do it.

It seems extraordinary to me that a school that offers, say, a GCSE in Dance can't muster a few crumbs to help a handful of pupils take a GCSE in Computing. But hey ho. It is what it is.

If you're one of those parents, don't lose heart. I have some very good news for you.

I didn't study computing at school. Or at university. There. I've said it.

And I'm doing just dandy as a software developer. How did I achieve this feat? Easy. The same way the majority of professional software developers did it.

When many - well, most - employers are hiring programmers, a computing qualification is actually quite low down on their list of requirements. What's usually top of their list is relevant experience.

A programmer programs. And there are too many computing graduates going to the market clutching pieces of paper who can't actually program. Not really. There are plenty more who don't have that piece of paper who can program, and demonstrably have programmed. A lot.

How do they demonstrate they've programmed? By programming, that's how. Luckily for us, you can tell how good a computer programmer is by looking at their computer programs. It's a bit like painting or singing or juggling in that respect.

Most people who program for a living are self-taught - and that includes the ones who have pieces of paper.

If you want to be a software developer, you do need a high level of general education. You need to be literate, numerate, logical and worldly-wise. But many companies would be just as likely to hire you with a degree in, say, physics, and demonstrable coding skills as they would if you had a specialised computing degree. (And if you study any of the physical sciences, there will be programming, trust me.)

The door won't be closed to you because you didn't get to do GCSE Computing or a BSc in Computer Science. If you teach yourself to code in your own time, and keep at it, by the time you're 21, the fact that you have a degree in Astronomy or Economics probably won't matter to many employers. The fact that you've contributed to Open Source projects, or written XBox games, or iPhone apps, will. I'll take someone with a degree in Caribbean Studies and 20,000 lines of good, clean code under their belt over a computer scientist any day.

If you want to learn how to program, learn how to program. the Interweb is chock full of free programming tools and tutorials and screencasts. Just google "learn to program".

And if you're the kind of kid who needs a bit of motivation, hook up with some like-minded friends and learn and code together.

You don't need anyone's permission to get good at programming.

Posted 40 minutes, 19 seconds ago on February 17, 2012