Let’s challenge the outdated computing stereotypes

Why coding isn't just an introduction to a new career, but a skill for life

By Richard Rolfe, co-founder of National Coding Week 

When many people think of coders, they often think of young bedroom hackers spending hours working alone on the computer until the early hours of the morning. But this simply isn’t the reality for the coding industry. The perception is changing slowly but not quickly enough. Somehow we need to communicate more widely how developing skills in coding could pave the way for a new and exciting career. 

As a country, we need to be doing more to promote the creativity there is to be found in a computing-based career. Rather than discouraging our brightest youngsters from digital careers, we need to make them aware of the benefits from entering our £180 billion-strong digital economy. 

The government is doing its bit to equip our young people with core coding skills, but what about the rest of us? Parents? Grandparents? What about our teachers? How can we expect our educators to get their pupils excited and confident about coding if they don’t feel this way themselves?

Of course, there’s no quick fix, but National Coding Week is at least part of the answer to this widespread problem. The crowd-sourced style event is taking place for a second time in September and will see thousands of people come together to share and learn coding skills in their local communities. From Manchester to the Isle of Man, individuals with any prior knowledge in coding will host classes in a range of locations across the UK, from schools and universities, to tearooms and pottery studios.

It’s a myth that you need to have a long computing career behind you to be able to pass on your knowledge. Even if you only have some basic expertise yourself, organising a local industry expert to come in to run a session could be just the boost staff and parents are looking for to support their children with this new subject. And I can honestly say that regardless of age of prior experience, anyone can get hooked on coding – I did it!

One great success story of a National Coding Week attendee is Jersey-based 29-year-old Dwayne Murray. After spending four years out of work, Dwayne, found himself constantly overlooked by employers who wanted explanations for the gap on his CV. He explained to me recently, how finding himself in this position was becoming increasingly demoralising, knocking his confidence. He had the enthusiasm to learn but lacked an opportunity to apply himself.   

Dwayne, one of the inspirations for National Coding Week, took part in the Digital Development Course run by CodexDLD, as a brief taster into what it’s like to work in the digital industry: “Everything I learnt in those two days with Codex, I use every day in my current job,” said Dwayne. “The course was a completely holistic overview of the digital arena. It was the perfect platform to start on my new career path. Even the website I designed and built during those two weeks is still live now!”

“Not only did they teach us about digital, they encouraged confidence, having a positive mental attitude and the will to always keep learning and honing our skills.”

And it’s a happy ending for Dwayne – his skills and commitment were noticed by an industry professional, who offered him a trial three month contract following the course completion. Fast-forwards five months and he’s now a manager.

“Right now I couldn’t be happier. Throughout life we are constantly learning, and even as an adult you can still learn code and new digital skills to enhance or change your career.” 

This is why my co-founder, Jordan Love, and I established National Coding Week last year. It’s about sharing the message that anyone can learn to code and build confidence along the way, if given just a little support by those around them. 

Coding is for everyone. It’s creative, it involves problem-solving, it’s always exciting. We each need to take responsibility for sharing this message beyond our classroom walls to give our adults a boost along with the next generation. Once adults from all walks of life are getting involved in coding, it’s much more likely that our children will be encouraged to embark upon a digital future.

If you’re still not convinced, I’d say give it a go! From my experience, more people find themselves walking away at the end of the day surprised by how much they enjoyed coding. Take the first step and get involved in National Coding Week this September.

Find out more by visiting the website at www.codingweek.org, or follow @codingweek on Twitter to keep up with the latest news.