My Octopress Blog

Why I'm Learning to Code

Because I have a tendency to be long winded and um, “tangential,” I’ve tended to approach the “why code?” question with a convenient “oh, lots of reasons” in the interest of sparing people my spiel. But since a first post is the perfect the opportunity to explore these reasons and tuck them away for easy reference, I thought I’d share a few here.

A (nearly) life long fascination

I initially became interested in how technology has changed the way we relate and communicate with each other because I could see it firsthand in my own life. AIM was huge when I was in high school and junior high. I owe the formation of several friendships to it, and as we all went our separate ways for college, the maintenance of many others. I find that quite remarkable for a form of communication that none of us were using just a few years before (not to mention one that, ten years later, no one is using now!)

As a former student of psychology I’m especially interested identifying the little peculiarities of online behavior and harnessing them for good. For instance, how can we use the internet’s protective shield of anonymity to encourage something other than horrific comment sections, like say, getting past the stigma of seeking mental health care?

Some other long term, big picture ideas I hope to eventually engage with: What is our always-on, multitasking culture doing to our attention spans? How can we take advantage of online dating without resorting to treating our fellow human beings like infinitely replaceable objects?

Ultimately I’m interested in working at companies that are using technology to make real life better. Learning to code is the first step.

Do I have a choice?

I’ve now worked in two industries that have been irreparably altered by technology: publishing and music. In neither case was this a change fostered from within, but rather forced from the outside. And if you believe software is truly eating the world, few industries will escape a similar disruption. To me that means adapt or become irrelevant.

Be the change (or something like that)

At some point I just got sick of repeatedly reading articles about the tech talent shortage (especially in New York) as well as abysmal gender ratios. To paraphrase one of our recent guest speakers, when you have a homogeneous tech work force, you have the same kinds of problems being addressed over and over again. Diversity in tech isn’t important merely because it’s politically correct or an ideal we should aim for, it’s important because it has real, serious implications for society. There’s no reason to resign yourself to unsatisfying work in a sector with increasingly few opportunities when there’s so much to be done elsewhere. And when you develop software, that elsewhere can be nearly anywhere.

Never again

I’ve already wasted way too much of my life just accepting conventional wisdom that there was no better way to do a particular task, only to realize later (in some cases much later), “why yes, there’s an Excel function for precisely that thing!” etc. I love that programming is about finding solutions to problems, and then making them as efficient as possible. The great thing about technology is that there’s always a “better way” to discover (or create!).

Brooklyn Based

In a very real and concrete way, I’m here because of this Brooklyn Based email I received a year ago -my first exposure to organizations like Skillcrush, Girl Develop It, and Hacker School. I had been interested in learning to code for a while, but felt like I really missed my chance by not studying CS in college, and suspected I could never get past the hobbyist level on my own. Being introduced to the idea that so many programmers were self taught anyway, and that there were now so many opportunities to learn that didn’t involve the wholesale “going back to school” really created a possibility in my mind that hadn’t been there before. That’s one daily email I’m glad I didn’t auto-delete!