Coding is a top skill for job placement, but learning to code doesn’t guarantee job security, says Christina Lewis, author and founder of All Star Code, a nonprofit that empowers young men of color through computer science instruction. In “Is Coding Over? Why Learning to Code Is Really About Learning to Learn,” writing for EdSurge, Lewis says that as technology evolves, coding languages rapidly change. Learning a computer language is an important, but ultimately transient, achievement: “Programming languages like Swift, Rust, Kotlin and Typescript have all emerged in the last ten years and increased in popularity. The coding language that our students learn this summer may be out of fashion in ten years’ time.”
Learning to code remains important because it “teaches you how to think and how to try and fail (and try and fail) and ultimately learn from it.” But the real key, Lewis says, is shifting our focus from short-term, tactical goals to the longer-term objective of creating a truly entrepreneurial mindset in our students by emphasizing four attributes: grit, creativity, problem-solving, and comfort with ambiguity.
Lewis defines grit as persistence: “Did you try again after making that mistake until you got it right, or did you give up and do something else?” Creativity can be developed by exploring unfamiliar topics deeply and pushing yourself to consider “out of the box” solutions, while your problem-solving skills can be honed by asking how frequently “you research a particular problem in order to understand it better,” for example.
Perhaps the most unorthodox of her recommendations is to make peace with ambiguity. “How often do you enter into a situation without feeling confident of where it’s leading?” she asks. Maintaining your composure and sense of purpose under conditions of uncertainty is a skill that serves employees in entrepreneurial environments well, and is transferable to fields outside of coding and computer science.
“Exposure to professional norms in culture and behavior provide vital skills for any career path our students take,” Lewis says. Building these soft skills in our young people will matter more in the long run than the hard skills of coding.