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Personal Branding

You Don’t Need To Learn To Code + Other Truths About the Future of Careers

The future belongs to those who work with, not against, the rising tide of technology.


There’s a reason most “conventional” career advice sucks: the world is changing at a rapid clip. When well-meaning mentors give advice based on their experiences decades ago, it’s kind of like teaching someone how to drive using a horse and buggy.

In his latest book, Average Is Over, economist Tyler Cowen argues that we need to reshape the way we think about jobs, and in turn, our careers, in the wake of this rapid technological change.

As most industrialized nations outsource and automate jobs, labor becomes more abundant and employment harder to come by. In a world of Amazon drones, who needs postal workers? When the Google self-driving car hits the mass market, will we no longer need taxi drivers? 

Yet the challenge for creators is more subtle: rather than being replaced by robots, we have to worry about competition on a global scale. (As online education becomes ubiquitous how can the art school graduate in Brooklyn ask for the same fee as the Photoshop master in India?) 

So how can we best prepare ourselves for this new career dynamic, where we must stave off outsourcing at every turn? We asked Cowen to break down the bulletproof “soft skills” needed for next era of careers:

1. Own your life choices, and don’t let comparison make you envious.

One side effect of the rise of automation is that everything we do can and will become measureable. We are already able to see the bloggers with the most views, the creative with the most Twitter followers. But soon, even service jobs will be subject to what Cowen calls “hyper meritocracy,” where everything is measured, tracked, and ranked. As a result, comparison to our peers, and the subsequent anxiety that comes with that, is inevitable. We’ll always know where we stack up, and employers will be able to compensate us accordingly.

The upshot of this is that survival in the new career landscape offers an interesting choice: Will you “live to work,” and do everything it takes to max out these measurements to impress your employers? Or do you prefer to “work to live,” to maximize your leisure and family time? Cowen explains:

For those at the top end, you require responsibilities and a network of commitments, you have traded favors with people on the way up. It’s very hard to just back out of that and say I’m going to sit around the pool today. You’re always on call, there’s always email coming at you. You work the whole time and that has its rewards but it’s also a pain. 

True meritocracy is quite psychologically oppressive. Our failures and shortcomings hurt and depress us more than learning about our virtues. I think this is one of the troubling aspects of this new world where everything gets measured. People don’t really like that. They want to think that they’re better than they are. That they are more productive than they are. That they have maybe have a brighter future than they do.

That’s what I mean by “Average is over.” The world is forcing us to make choices and they’re not that easy. 

2. Don’t learn to code, learn how to work with technology.

A common refrain from those in the tech industry is that everyone should learn to code. There are a multitude of organizations (e.g. Code Academy, Treehouse, and Udacity among many others) set up to help mid-career professionals pick up this new skill as well as a growing demand that we include programming in our primary school curriculum

If becoming a programmer is appealing to you, great. But seeking employment based on any one “hard skill” is an outdated way of thinking. The rapid evolution of technology forces us to constantly reconsider which hard skills are in demand. (And we should). Staying on top of the hard skills needed is a necessity in the short term, but one of the best ways to position yourself for success in the long term is to focus on the soft skills needed no matter what technology you are working with. 

“There is often this naive reaction a lot of people have,” says Cowen. “They say, ‘Now I need to take X number of years off, learn all the skills of computer programming and become a programmer.’ Very often that’s a bad way to go. It’s people who integrate technical skills with knowledge of a concrete area and who understand marketing, presentation, and persuasion.” 

In other words, if your job gets better with technology you’re in good shape. Think of the doctor that can use complicated computer-aided readouts to produce an accurate diagnosis, or the sales person that can sift through client data to work more efficiently. 

“Take Mark Zuckerberg who, of course, has been a great programmer,” says Cowen. “There is much more to Facebook than that. It’s appealing, it gets people to come back, and he was a psychology major. It’s that integration that’s important.” 

The smartest workers will be able to leverage technology to their advantage and be able to recognize the big-picture ways to utilize it. The technology will change. The means of accessing will change. But strategically implementing it will remain in constant demand for tomorrow’s workforce. 

The smartest workers will be able to leverage technology to their advantage and be able to recognize the big-picture ways to utilize it.

3. Become a first-rate leader and collaborator.

It’s impossible to outsource great leadership. As jobs and companies become more specialized and competition more fierce, top companies will increasingly fight for workers that show leadership chops.

“Computers are very far from being able to manage human beings and motivate them and set expectations and inspire,” says Cowen. “So that’s a big sector of managing — making people feel good about themselves, getting other people to cooperate. That’s really a growth sector if you cannot do the technical things.”

Cowen points out that executives, managers, supervisors, and financial professionals captured 70 percent of all salary gains from 1979 to 2005. In other words, it’s the leaders and big-picture thinkers that are thriving the most. 

“Very often the people ‘in the field’ do not think conceptually about their own operations,” says Cowen. It’s increasingly difficult to think of the big picture while in the tunnel vision of a specific role.

Because of this hyper-specialization, creative teams will need workers who they enjoy collaborating with. As we all become more specialized, the problems we are solving will become increasingly complex. This means that collaboration across different areas of expertise will become even more important. One person alone cannot design the self-driving car.

“There won’t be much room for a ‘rebel without a cause’ or, for that matter, a rebel with a cause,” writes Cowen. 

4. Learn to market your work.

Even if you have the skills and connections, success still means getting your work noticed. No matter what field you are in, marketing your work will only get harder in the decades to come. To paraphrase Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian: On the Internet, a funny cat video is always a click away. Those who can authentically and effectively do battle with Buzzfeed listicles and Instagram photos will always be in demand. Cowen says:

Marketing is the sort of skill that is hard to outsource because you need to know a lot of local knowledge of time and place usually. To figure out what your readers are like or what some market segment is like [takes time], and the idea that you just hire some smart genius in India to solve it is not going to work.

“Marketing” in this context is different than taking a class at your local college. It’s about having a deep, entrenched understanding of your subject matter and target audience. The kind of high-level analytical thinking required to do this work can never be automated and will always be in demand.  

***

This Wild West landscape painted by Cowen and others can be a bit frightening, but with uncertainty comes opportunity. Top performers in every field are getting paid better than ever. We’ve seen the rise of digital nomads and solo entrepreneurs for those who like to go their own way. And, most importantly, an increased emphasis on job-agnostic “soft skills” means that we can quickly switch careers to match our interests and beliefs. It’s easier than ever to tailor-make a career and lifestyle that aligns with what makes us happy.

The creatives that succeed will be the ones that embrace these changes and use them to generate more opportunity and more chances to truly impact our world. To quote William Gibson: “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

How about you?

What “soft skills” do you think are most in demand?

Sean Blanda

Sean Blanda is a writer based in New York City and is the former Editor-in-Chief and Director of 99U. Find him on Twitter: @SeanBlanda.

Comments (116)
  • Cesar Idrobo

    Personal skills are and will always be in demand. There is no point of having the best of something if you can’t effectively communicate/share ideas with your team members.

  • WILLIE DYNOMITE

    good post

  • Jade E. Freeman

    Whew! The everyone-must-code group think is killing me.

  • http://www.bklynresumestudio.com/ Dana Leavy-Detrick

    The whole idea that marketing yourself based on one primary hard skill is interesting, as I work with a lot of career changers, and it’s always a matter of looking at the soft, transferrable skills, and how to use those to pitch yourself. This makes a great case for that, and how it’s becoming a more necessary approach for all professionals. Well said.

  • Anthony

    The reason for the everyone-must-code philosophy is not for everyone to get a job in programming (or even be a good programmer) – it is to teach them a new way of thinking and to help them roughly understand the technology they use. It is important because once someone learns the process of technology development, it removes the “magic” from it and makes these everyday cloud tools more tangible. To be a good leader, you must at least somewhat understand the process.

    • Thomas

      I’m dating myself here, but in 1999 I was in middle school and was really scared of Y2K. My dad explained the situation to me as such, “It’s just hype. People walk around in a world of magic and have no idea how anything works. They hear that these magical machines might break and destroy everything and they believe it because they have no way of telling if that’s true or not.” I’m paraphrasing of course since that was 15 years ago, but it’s like what you say about magic. Technology will only get more and more integrated into our lives and with Apple being popular, its workings will get more and more hidden. One of the goals of a democracy should be to educate a learned, critical thinking populace and a place to start is basic coding. We require foreign language, why not a language that you interact with multiple times a day?

  • tomas__86

    isn’t it “porn is always one click away”.. the cat is clearly a euphemism

  • Toby

    Mark Zuckerberg was a great programmer? So this is technology advice from someone who knows little about technology.

  • lauralouise90

    You might not need to ‘code’ as such but it’s a great skill to have and teaches you further skills that you an apply to other areas… Laura @ Web Design Birmingham

  • Megan Rene Burkett

    Thank you for sharing this post! As a recruiter and someone with a futuristic mindset for the world of work these points are always on my mind. I actually believe there will be a role created for career mediator within organizations. This individual will be a core collaborator with a full understanding of the market and business objectives from a variety of angles- working closely with executives for alignment. But this is just one of the many ideas in the world of work I may be getting ahead of myself.

  • Megan Rene Burkett

    Thank you for sharing- I’m going to look into this book!

  • Finance Quant

    So true, in my former career as a scientist, I learned to code first in Pascal then in C. Later on, after switching careers to finance, I learned to script in VBA, Mathematica, and then programm in C++. I can’t say that my non-coding peers and colleagues were at a disadvantage. In fact, once people found out I could coded, I got slammed with all the grunt, monkey-work and bacame more of the finance department’s resident monkey. My salary stagnated as I was frequently reminded that some hacker in India could do the same job for $10/hr! After changing companies, I kept my mouth shut and saw my career and opportunities rise as I focused on my core skills in finance rather than getting pigeon-holed and stereotyped as a code-monkey.

    • Joe_F38

      Really ? What kind of Quant were you ? I used to work with GS(IBD) as a Quant-dev (Core Strats) and almost all the non-technical people in my equity/etf trading department got fired (as we automated pretty much everything), including most of the traders (except one). Similar things have happened to the vast majority of non-technical people working in tactical-trading departments across all major Wall-Street Hedge-Funds (DE Shaw, 2-Sigma, Getco, Citadel, KCG/Knight, Teza, etc). Besides, RenTec’s Medalion Fund, out of almost 300 employees, only employs 2 people with background in Finance and not Math, CS or Physics.

      PS: you’re argument from experience is totally ignoring your sample size problem

  • usha

    What’s up with the “smart guy from India”?

  • Adrian Meli

    Interesting counter-point on coding but I am less convinced learning to code is simply about becoming a programmer rather than understanding a newer language of the world that is becoming ever more important.

  • Chelsea

    roscoe’s wetsuit

  • Nath

    I think the article here is attacking a straw man. The point of teaching programming at primary school is not to spawn a generation of programers that only know one skill but teaching people at a young a age how computers work.. the ways in which computers are smart and the ways they are painful stupid. How logic and procedures work, a familiarity with information and data structures. We teach, Maths and Reading at young age even though very few people are Mathematicians or Proof Readers. Programming is great way to teach people how to think about computers regardless if whether or not their profession involves coding. Most peoples professional worlds is spent operating some kind of program. From email to CRM, to ERP, to smartphone games. I think we should teach a basic understanding of the principles involved.

    • http://www.emberstudio.com Mike McDonald

      Just because tech is more widely used today doesn’t mean we need to teach to it. Or at the very least we shouldn’t require it and put it right up there with other required subjects.

      There are plenty of things that aren’t required learning even though they would help explain the underlying function of everyday tasks and products. Lots of people drive cars but we don’t require automotive education. We all eat food but we’re not required to take a Home Economics class. They’re elective classes.

      Should we offer programming as an elective class? Sure. Many schools already do. I took a programming class when I was in high school in the late 1990s. But just because tech has permeated our lives in huge ways over the last 20 years doesn’t mean that we need to change the emphasis in education to make programming required learning.

      Programming just isn’t that important, not compared to other skills we teach in schools and some we don’t. There are other things I’d place higher value on that we don’t teach or require. The #1 skill employers look for today is creativity and creative thinking. Let’s design a new class around that before we put programming in there.

      • Joe_F38

        “Proof by analogy is fraud” (Bjarne, Stroustrup)

        Mike, it seems like you’re not even capable of mastering basic logic. Your argument is a huge Straw-man.

        True creativity comes from a deeper understanding of the technical fields (topics) governing your problems, from the ability to boil things down to the most fundamental truths and then reason up from there … and these you won’t be able to do without the deep understanding I was mentioning before ( that’s what Elon Musk said at SXSW. earlier this year … but hey, what does he know, right ? )

        As for how important programming is, in today’s world ? An intelligent person would first look at the data before drawing any conclusions. Most studies show a positive and strong correlation between the growing number of CS graduates or people holding a CS degree and economic progress (standard of living, GDP(PPP)/Capita, etc) across almost any country.

        There’s also a very strong correlation between technical depth and creativity. From Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, Claude Shannon, Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Paul Allen or Max Levchin to Henry Ford or Fred Koch, almost all of the truly creative people fit the pattern.

        Most modern and successful companies, today, will simply laugh at you (and for good reasons) if you claim to be a “creative thinker” but can’t back that up with a real/strong skill.

      • http://www.emberstudio.com Mike McDonald

        You’re creating analogies of convenience, talking about tech moguls who are also creative people and wildly successful and connecting growing numbers of CS grads to economic progress. That’s not “data”, it’s barely coincidence. You could point to any number of non-tech things that are also on the rise and then try to stick those to economic growth.

        What would you define as a “real/strong skill?” Coding, surely, but why wouldn’t you define creative thinking as a real skill? It doesn’t need to be backed up. Plenty of software producers are working today without a lick of coding knowledge. It doesn’t take a coder to think up the next great idea for a product or service, even a web or software-based one.

        What a narrow view of the world you have, thinking that only someone with some specific skill that you personally deem worthy can be a creative thinker.

      • Joe_F38

        well, at least I’ve provided a few real-life examples and some data to backup my statements; you’ve provided NONE, thus your argument is just rhetoric and nothing more.

        give just a few examples of truly creative and highly successful people that have no “hard” skill (like those I mentioned, or comparable) and I’ll review your opinions;
        fair enough ?

  • Muaad Lamen

    Fascinating Insight, Joe. Can you explain what he meant by points (1) and (2)?

    • Joe Sanginario

      Muaad, by language of the universe he meant understanding the universal principles and virtues that lead to living a righteous life. With the language of the world he means seeking to understand different cultures, linguistics and business customs.

      • Muaad Lamen

        Beautiful. Merci beaucoup!

  • Chris

    Good article, and as a programmer of many years as well as someone who understand the demand we will have for new developers in the near future, I must also say that there are other ways to improve development than creating more coders, or even people that understand code.

    Particularly since developers are even making headway on systems that code themselves. As a developer I know the biggest costs in time and productivity are usually a lack of good communication, pressure to get things done too quickly (an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure in this business), and too much focus on the symptoms than the actual problem.

    Critical thinking and communication would be much better courses to require in schools.

  • Dan Linstroth

    Great article and conversation starter. Having the confidence to make your own life starts with the courage to take a few risks. It gets easier with each roll of the dice, but the first throw is always the scariest. Noah Kagen of AppSumo speaks to this point often.

  • Jesse Joudrey

    Good Morning

    I still think people should learn to code, just not for the reasons listed. I agree that basing a career off of programming an existing language is not for everyone, but so is basing a career off of Shakespeare and we’re not proposing to drop that.

    People should learn to code because it develops their brains and can teach them new (and effective) methods of problem solving that apply within code and in the real world daily.

    For those interested in tech; if you can code you can start just about any software or web project without funding by doing it yourself in your spare time. You can then use your prototypes to encourage others to join you. This makes the start-up phase of just about anyone’s first software, web or mobile business easier.

    You mention Zuckerberg being a psych major, and how his creativity was more important to facebook than his ability to code. That may be true, but facebook wouldn’t exist without both. Facebook is a great example of what can happen when Psych majors can code. If more authors, artists and creatives could code, more of them would be capable of showing us their vision.

    All the other points here are great. Love the site!

    • GIIPUCSC

      Excellent reply! Coding is helpful for everyone in the same way learning a foreign language or studying history is. It broadens your creative mindset and allows you to interact with the world in a more complete way.

    • Ryan

      My guess is you probably have no experience in coding and the tech industry in general. Throwing around the term “learn to code, everyone can do it!” is absurd. Not everyone can do it. Some people’s brains do not think logically enough to understand code. Believe it or not everyone is not wired to understand the logic it takes to code. I know so because I am one of those individuals with 4 years of industry experience in tech startups, and working for big companies/firms. I have a B.A. degree in computer graphics and I do UI/UX work. Simply teaching someone to code is not an easy task nor can it ever stop being taught because you will never master it. I do believe that if you are working in the tech industry you should have an understanding of code and be able to communicate your ideas while fully understanding the technology that gives life to your product. I understand code and know how to write a little bit of it, but that’s because when I’m designing for these technologies I must understand how they’ll be implemented and used by the humans that interact with them.

      • bsaunders

        Exactly. Not everyone can code. Ironically I think the idea that coding = job security contains in it the idea that writing and design are not competitive pursuits because “everyone” can do them. Just look at how much awful writing and design there is out there! Some people’s brains were made for those activities rather than for coding.

  • Jay Williams

    Coming at this article from a point in my career where my creative skills and degree have been vastly devalued (due to the advent of desktop technology) to the point where many companies are asking “interns” to do it, I have been searching for ways to make myself more marketable, learning coding being one of them. While this article has some truth to it, when faced with the economy as it is and the job market the way it is, I think there isn’t much here to really grasp onto from a practical perspective.

    Companies aren’t posting jobs for “soft skills”. If anything, they are combining disparate jobs that used to have no relation to each other, such as “Graphic Designer/Web Developer” – which definitely means they should know code – and, by the way, that job description would have been laughed at just five years ago. However, companies think they can consolidate and save money, so you find these ridiculous job postings marrying two different disciplines due to corporate cutbacks. Or you find positions listed which want a laundry list of code languages, each of which would take years to master by themselves – yet they are thrown together like alphabet soup on a job description, as if coders are just born with these various language skills, ready to jump to and from any language as needed. While yes, coding in any language has similarities to others, they are not the same – it’s just consolidation and unrealistic expectations from the top-down management that produce these laughable job postings.

    Of course you should be better at marketing yourself – that’s a given, especially in today’s market – but hardly news. As for leadership, getting those positions is even more competitive than tech positions – going to people with Masters degrees, insiders, etc… and working your way up is possible, but pretty rare when you have been a worker bee all your life and now at 50 you are trying to claw your way into middle management!

    As for #2, I agree that learning to be tech friendly is a good asset – yet it’s a pretty nebulous thing to try to quantify, and not something by itself that will land you a job in today’s market. You are gonna need hard skills and hard evidence to even interview, let alone get that job. Everybody knows how to get on a computer nowadays – and most people are fairly efficient with Office if they have worked in a corporate environment before. In other words, what else can you do?? This doesn’t seem to be very good advice in general above what we already know.

    As for #1, I think the notion of somehow being quantified by the number of social media followers or likes or whatever is completely off the mark! If an employer is basing who they hire based on how many Twitter followers they have, no matter what their profession, I think unless the person they are hiring is a social media strategist that it’s a huge mistake and way off-target. The idea that just to remain relevant in today’s job market I have to grow a social media following or somehow be quantified via my blog ranking is, first, not at all relevant to 99% of jobs, and second, an insult to people who actually dedicate their life to their craft and improving their work, not increasing their blog audience or their following on social media.

    Sorry if my response to this article sounds bitter – but I find very little practical advice for someone trying to figure out how to navigate a job market that has become downright hostile to humans in general, and especially anyone over the age of 40, no matter WHAT they do. I’m also ready to absolutely throw up at the words “positive attitude” – I DO have a positive attitude – I am positive about my skills and abilities, and positive that I have value and add value in the workforce with those skills and abilities. What I’m NOT positive about is the way that corporate America has slashed older workers from it’s rolls with practically no accountability. Or how they have managed to de-personalize the job hiring process to the point where you can’t even speak to a human unless they have reached out to you first. Or how people who are unemployed due to no fault of their own are being discriminated against by corporations (and they are getting away with all of this with NO accountability, all of it being notoriously hard to prove, yet obviously prevalent and disgustingly evident.)

    What I see in articles like these is a silent finger pointed at the average worker regarding getting employment, when the elephant in the room isn’t the workforce – it’s the sheer insanity of today’s corporate culture, the worship of money over human capital and ethics, and the desire in the corporate world to have absolutely NO accountability in regards to treating people as they should be treated. Older workers have a target on their backs once they turn 40 if they haven’t successfully transitioned into management somehow (a rare occurrence and becoming more rare all the time), and younger workers are exploited ruthlessly via lower salary and less job security, among other things.

    So please don’t write more about how the worker needs to be more “soft skill friendly” and more socially marketable – write instead about how to change corporate culture to abide by the law, and be more ethical in their hiring practices, job expectations, and corporate responsibility and culture.

    • Denise

      Dear Jay, I read your comment and while I’m a strong believer of what the article promotes and I’ve come far with mainly my soft skills so far, I sadly have to agree with you. All the advice given to employees requires them to shift and change in order to fit into a sick corporate system where all that counts is money.

      My example differs from yours in the details but it amounts to the same result: I’m a community management and social media expert with a university degree in languages and economics but the grade for my degree is not the best. If you take a look at my linkedin profile you’ll see my previous colleagues praising my enthusiasm and what a great co-worker I was (my soft skills are outstanding as it seems) but the majority of employers in Germany don’t give a damn. All they do is take a look at the grade in my university degree and decide to not even give me the chance for an interview.
      And besides, social media and community management is apparently something that can be done by interns (mostly students, who have a facebook and Twitter account).
      Today’s employers display an enormous lack of knowledge when it comes to social business, they underestimate its importance as well as how difficult it is to be good at it. It needs experts, not interns and they need to be paid like experts, not with peanuts like monkeys. But it’s difficult to create a tangible ROI based on the benefits of social media and that’s why experts like myself have such a hard time to find a good job in Germany (it’s different in the UK where businesses have recognised the value).

      How about an article that helps people whose biggest strength are their soft skills convince old fashioned businesses of their worth? There are experts like Altimeter group who are trying their best at this and I am very grateful for that but there’s still a lot to do, especially in old fashioned Germany.

    • hereNT

      On the disparate jobs thing, you note that graphic designer / web developer being opposite sides of the coin is pretty inaccurate. You don’t have to be 100% on either one, but as someone that has handled being that kind of bridge in both print and now in web, those two sides are very intricately intertwined. Designers that don’t know enough to know what is possible can add 10K – 100K to a project by selling the end client something that can’t be developed. A developer that doesn’t understand how the design is laid out and the things that aren’t shown but are implied will end up with multiple rounds of revisions.

      #1 is totally spot on. You don’t need 100K followers, but you *do* need to show that you are comfortable with it and use it to promote your knowledge. If you apply to a job and actually get considered to the point where they check out that stuff, having a public facing side that has content curated to your industry and showing your knowledge of it helps immensely.

      It’s not a popularity contest, it’s a differentiation of you from the competition. If you have the industry posts intermixed with posts that show that your interests and views line up with the company, then it’s really going to help you out.

      If you are a solo entrepreneur, as I am, it can also drive work your way. Blog posts, twitter, linkedin, and even facebook have actually caused people to contact me or the company I worked for specifically because they realized that they could find the skills they needed by talking to us.

      On #2, I do think that coding is a hugely valuable skill. Knowing what drives these magic machines is key to being able to stay on top of things. If you really want to work upwards, that will really help you out.

      But it’s not *just* coding, it’s understanding of all the basic tech. When I worked in print, there were people in prepress with encyclopedic knowledge of how plates, ink, and presses worked. But they had never really learned the tech side as it went away from film. Those people were barely able to find temp jobs.

      It’s about flexibility and adaptability. Just like biological evolution. It’s not the strongest, or the best, it’s the one that can handle change the best. You can’t quantify it really, but it will influence on how the people supervising you approach you, your standing in the company, and your recommendation if they are contacted.

      Some of the people I worked with could *use* a computer, but you had to tell them every single keystroke and they had no concept of the underlying concepts. Granted, this was about 8 years ago, but the same thing applies now. Can’t understand how things work when it’s a google apps cloud server vs your old intranet? Sending lots of messages to IT support because you don’t quite know how to search for the answer to your question of ‘how do I ____?”

      You’re going to move down.

      On the rest, I’m totally with you. I’m mostly in support of cooperative work spaces without much hierarchy. The current culture in most corporations is evil. But if you are looking to get in somewhere at something above ‘average’ position, then you *must* have all of the things they talk about.

      It’s not even just the tech stuff. A few of the comments have talked about simple language as a key, not a programming language. The way that you portray yourself through words makes a huge difference. Spending a few minutes to compose an email that is lucid and concise instead of just banging something out can make a huge difference. The other people on your team will appreciate it, the overall performance of everyone will go up because there’s less back and forth, you spend more time working as opposed to meetings…

      Then the whole performance of the unit goes up and again you can keep moving up.

      Just my two cents.

  • http://www.HistorySquared.com HistorySquared

    Similar talk centered around the internet bubble, and with several startups having zero revenues, much less profits, trading with valuations of $3-4 billion, I’d be careful of learning to code for coding’s sake.

    However, if there is an application you’d like to build, if you see your job becoming obsolete due to an algorithm, or if there is a specific role you think you’d enjoy, then by all means, learn to code.

    Additionally, one could boost their technical skillset and knowledge of coding, find partners or a suitable company, then work with developers in project management type roles.

  • GIIPUCSC

    Response to number 2. Sites like Codecademy are introductory and will not give you skills that will get you hired. That’s not what they’re for. We’re a information technology and social enterprise program. We teach basic HTML and CSS in the web design class which is a part of our program. Most of our students are social science majors and what we see every year is a bunch of people saying “I’m not a techie”. We observe genuine fear and a great deal of apprehension when it comes to adopting technology. One thing we consistently find is that by giving our students an introduction to coding we are able to help demystify technology and make them more comfortable with using it. After that they go on to amazing projects to enrich the community at home and abroad.

    You could call all the talk about programming a part of a general discussion about what a well rounded person should and shouldn’t learn. Why learn a foreign language if it’s not part of your job? Why learn history if it’s not part of your job? Why learn math if it’s not part of your job? Learning a little bit of a wide variety of skills prepares you to interact with the world more confidently and competently. At least that’s one opinion

    • andholt

      This is spot on. Anyone who works at a tech company would do well to learn the basics of coding, not so they can seek a job as a developer, but so they have a reasonable understanding of what goes into development of a product. I wouldn’t necessarily advise someone in sales to spend hundreds of hours learning engineering skills, but taking a basics course so they develop some level of technical chops (which will be admittedly nowhere near an actual seasoned developers) will serve them well and give them a big differentiator.

      That said, if you’re in marketing and are struggling (and want to remain on that track), you’re probably better off learning to write well and growing your relevant skills that muddying the waters and learning to code.

  • Denise

    I have actually been thinking of learning to code because the last job interview I had failed due to my lack of coding knowledge. It wasn’t even an interview for a technical position, it was an interview for a community management position. I provided the potential employer with letters of recommendation from previous clients who praised my soft skills, I gave them links to online sources which proved my worth but in the end I wasn’t technical enough.

    I want to believe in what you say, I’ve been defending the same position for the past years and I’ve been successful but now I’ve come back to old fashioned Germany and nobody is interested in my soft skills any more. Or let’s say nobody is interested in paying for these skills. What I do can apparently be done by interns, for free. That’s the thing with soft skills – you can’t put a ROI on them. Or can you? And if there’s no tangible benefit it’s worth nothing. And in that aspect I think you still need the technical knowledge in order to be paid. Maybe it’s different in the US and I congratulate you if that’s the case.

    • http://nwcs.com/~jvc/ Viqsi

      I think the idea is that you market the hard skills and provide value with the soft skills. At least, that’s my best guess – I’m not very good at self-marketing and have had to lean hard on networking and contacts as a result. 😀

  • Rakhshanda Khan

    Its not the war between two advices “learn code” and “no need to learn
    code”. We need to teach people how to develop in demand future skills
    i.e. blend of soft skills(x) + technical skills(y) = future skill where
    as the values of x and y can be any combination skills according to
    career/specific field. Moreover, for service sector jobs you need to, at
    least, know what code is (knowledge about code) and you don’t need to
    write your own. Having future skills can make any individual the most eminent
    candidate/employee. For some service sector jobs the weight of soft
    skills(x) is greater than technical(y) but we cannot neglect it.

  • http://wickedcultured.wordpress.com/ Matthew Walker

    Just learn to write well. As a poet, it’s easy…but for many people, writing is not fun, but they read really crappy copy every day…writing is a kind of “coding” that will never, ever go away. Invest now.

    • Billy Bones

      except that people buy a lot more smart phones and computers and writers aren’t needed to make them

      • http://nwcs.com/~jvc/ Viqsi

        Many things get made that folks never find out about because of poor writing. Besides, the skills involved are surprisingly transferable.

      • Billy Bones

        If you were right, California would have been writer’s valley.

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