Why Girls (and Boys) Should Learn How to Code

Today’s TechCrunch article “Software is Eating All the Jobs Too” talks about how despite record high unemployment numbers in the US, coders have their pick of the litter of well-paid jobs. Everyone from hungry start ups to the big tech companies are offering a premium for good software developers. I can attest to this by the number of recruiters that check me out on LinkedIn. I also recently discovered that answering Yes to the question “Can you code on iPhone?” (sic) will result in job offers from strangers. Software developer has consistently been a top ranked career in the past few years.

 But it wasn’t always this way. The article goes on: “…a few years ago…all those business school reports and magazine covers [were] warning the US that it wasn’t just the factory jobs going overseas; the white collar engineering jobs were all leaving Silicon Valley too. … These reports screamed that kids lulled into computer science degrees by the great late 1990s were graduating into the work world out of luck.

Let me tell you my story: I started my undergrad in Computer Engineering during the nuclear winter of 2002. The first couple of years were tough slogging due to the sudden dearth of tech jobs. My first co-op job was a mind-numbing desk job at a roofing company. Later, I listened to my older co-workers gripe about how miserable they were now with untold number of worthless options and earning a fraction of what they did before, and then reminisce about the good ol’ days of the boom when limitless investor money showered them with Aeron chairs and parties.

People questioned my choice to study Computer Engineering, asking me why I was entering a dying field after the dot-com bust left thousands of tech workers suddenly jobless. Truthfully, at the time I didn’t even have a particular affinity for coding. One of my other top choices was actually to study Commerce, but I did well enough in school to get into engineering. In the end, I chose Computer Engineering, because the way I looked at it, every job will  use computers in the future. So even if I didn’t end up programming (which at the time I didn’t envision myself doing), I can use my technical knowledge in other fields I may pursue in the future.

The point is that technology will continue to be the source of innovation, the same as it always has. Technology pushes the boundaries of what can be done and the people behind the innovation will be the ones to be rewarded for it. If children are not brought up to be tech-savvy — and it’s not just using consumer technology (which is a given these days with youngsters), but learning how to use the tools and manipulate technology to create something — then they will be at a severe disadvantage entering the job market.

I have seen over and over again what a huge difference having solid technical skills is to traditionally non-tech jobs, such as marketing (SEO/SEM, social media, blogging, etc.), HR (LinkedIn, technical candidate screening and interviews) and even sales (Excel, CRM, email/networking tools). In all industries, people are increasingly expected to keep abreast of technology advances in their field. Overall a “techie” person is just so much more productive and efficient because they are able to seek out and use the technology available to help them — whether it’s in their own work or giving their company a competitive advantage.

Back to my story: As sure as the seasons, by my third year in 2005, things were booming again. All my classmates were getting snapped up by the Microsofts and Googles on the west coast, and the big financial institutions on the east coast with great salaries and perks. The former naysayers were now congratulating me on a wise career choice with a bright future. Fast forward to now, companies large and small are in need of technical talent as much as ever, all over the country.

At the current (and sadly declining) rate of girls pursuing computer science and engineering, women are seriously missing out on the biggest opportunity there is in the job market. So parents and kids, especially the girls, invest in learning technology, invest in your future.

Check out my related post: What it means to be a Woman in Tech