I’m writing this post to join the whole meme surrounding Jeff Atwood’s original post telling people why they shouldn’t learn to code. You can see additional posts on the topic here, here, and here. I figured I’d add my own narcissistic take on things by sharing my own story.
11 years ago I was at a turning point in my life. I had left Northeastern University in Boston to go to community college in Northern Virginia. I’ll save the reason why for another post sometime. Needless to say I got obsessed with self-help and business books. Think and Grow Rich, How To Win Friends And Influence People, Never Eat Alone, the list goes on. One of the core things that became insanely compelling to me was the concept that you could essentially envision your destiny and make it reality.
At the time, one of the key skills that would enable me to fulfill my destiny was coding. To be honest, I feel the same today. You can learn to crunch numbers in finance, cut people open in a hospital (doctor), read legal documents, but very few skills provide the potential to create and visually display your creation and make money from it. Yes, there are other creative skills like cooking, designing, architecting, etc. Coding is one of those skills.
As someone who spent a decent amount of time in front of a computer growing up, coding was one of the more appealing things to me. Especially since by 2001 (when I started my coding journey) there were thousands of companies that were wildly successful thanks to the power of code. I was inspired and wanted to create my own masterpiece. I decided to create a site to sell independent music online, Musical Revolution (no, it wasn’t a success). All the code I had done up to this point was HTML on a Geocities website.
Given that there was no social life in community college I came home every day and coded. I started off with ASP since I didn’t know any better. I picked up a 2,000+ page book that was boring as hell and started to force myself through it. However no matter how hard I try I couldn’t get my scripts to communicate with a database. To this day I have no idea what the problem was and nobody at Microsoft’s hosting department was able to help me.
I ended up reaching out to a friend from MIT who decided to help out as long as I used PHP. He wanted to learn a new language and PHP was getting a lot of traction in the hacker community. Of course I let him use PHP and we proceeded to develop a first version of the site. Unfortunately he had to go back to school before the project was complete so I was left trying to figure things out myself. I went out and bought this book and connected with other developers in the PHP.net forum.
Eventually I got to a point where people could register, login, upload songs, and sell their music. All this was done through brute force. I don’t say that to brag, I say it because I was going to create this vision one way or another and the only way I could get there was if I learned to code. In life, you need to do whatever it takes to get where you want to go. For me, learning to code was the way to get there. Eventually Musical Revolution shut down as I turned it into a more ambitious social network (pictured below … that also failed!).
Today, I still find myself coding my future. You don’t need to learn to code. It’s not a requirement to succeed. However if your vision involves creating a product that can impact millions of people, coding is most definitely a great tool for getting you there.