Don’t let the title scare you away, this isn’t a complex tutorial on how to write code. I’m just going to ramble for a minute about how useful it is. Getting comfortable with the basics of programming and computer science will give you a valuable mindset that will improve your life in more ways than one. It’s not just for the geeks who spend Friday night in their parents’ dark basement with Cheeto stains on their shirt, sitting in front of a bright screen of incomprehensible jumble.
You’ve probably heard it before, but that geek you knew and made fun of in high school will probably end up being your boss one day.
It has been about 10 years since I wrote my first line of code. I remember it vividly — sitting on my family’s old Dell with a hefty CRT monitor in my hometown of Liberty, Utah, writing HTML in Microsoft Word and customizing my profile on MySpace. It wasn’t a glamorous way to begin my journey down the road of software development, but it got me hooked. I made a simple portfolio site for myself, and by age 13, I had my first job as a web developer for a guy in Mississippi who needed a website for his small business (yes, that’s still the original site — now a treasured relic.)
To this day, I’m not totally sure how I landed the gig, but before I could even legally get a job or drive a car, I found myself making more than minimum wage. I set my own rates, my own hours, and I had no idea what I was doing. But I figured it out as I went along. I’ve since moved on from those humble times, and lucky for me, my skills have improved since then. Now I’m 22 years old, have a killer career that I love, and have valuable skills that will give me job security for the rest of my life. Looking back, I’m amazed at what my simple coding hobby has turned into.
Let’s face it — computers are the future. Everything will, if it doesn’t already, rely on computers at some point. I can’t even think of a field that doesn’t already rely on them. Whether it’s a simple point-of-sale system in a coffee shop, a corporate office, or a gigantic server infrastructure powering an entire company, everything relies on these mindless machines of ours. It’s scary to think about if you don’t understand them, and scarier when you do (a discussion for another day).
“I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.” — Steve Jobs
A lot of my friends say coding isn’t for them. They walk past my desk throughout the day and say things like, “Just looking at that stresses me out”, or “I’m so glad I became a designer” when they see code on my screen. I know programming can be really intimidating at first, but once you grasp the fundamentals, you’ll gain a valuable mindset that you won’t get otherwise. It’ll sharpen your ability to troubleshoot and solve problems, and that is immensely valuable. It really does teach you how to think — a skill that is surprisingly lacking in today’s society. It doesn’t take a genius to write code anymore than it takes a genius to read a book.
If after learning the basics you find that you want to take it further, you could be in the early stages of one of the most lucrative careers in the country right now. If you are good at what you do, you’ll have no trouble finding a job, and you’ll get compensated extremely well for it. You’ll have the skills needed to actually make a difference in the world, if you have enough ambition.