Earlier this week I posted an interview with Boundless CTO Aaron White on why everyone can benefit from learning to code. Fresh off a weekend of Python at an Intelligent.ly workshop taught by White, I was inclined to agree.
But while there’s an argument to be made that designers, product managers, marketers, and even journalists can benefit from a basic understanding of coding, becoming an actual developer is another thing entirely.
So I was interested to see this tweet from Sean Lindsay, VP of Engineering at Tapjoy and formerly a co-founder of Viximo:
All these “train more developers” programs remind me of last bubble where the standing joke was “how many English majors on your dev team?”
— ? Sean Lindsay (@rseanlindsay) December 14, 2012
Lindsay is a well-respected technical engineer in the Boston startup community, and so his words (and tweets) carry weight. In addition to the coding seminars put on by Intelligent.ly, Boston Startup School recently announced sign-ups for its coding track.
Reed Sturtevant of TechStars pushed back, noting that no one is born a coding whiz:
— Fred Destin (@fdestin) December 14, 2012
The two seemed to agree on that point, and on the fact that the potential pool of would-be developers is not limitless, even in a place like Boston. But perhaps the most interesting response was the other one above from Fred Destin of Atlas.
The point of a lot of these programs is to teach a lot of people the basics in order to assess who has the potential to become a valuable developer. Along the way, companies can come in and get a look at students and decide which are worth the investment of further training.
While I like the line about a bubble of English majors posing as engineers, my intuition is a bit more optimistic. I know a lot of smart liberal arts grads with a very solid grounding in analytic reasoning, if not a formal engineering background. Sure, not all of them would make rock star developers, but I’m guessing a few would. And plenty of others, even if they wouldn’t ever make CTO’s, might at this point trade their current job for a position in development.
The only thing worse than an engineering department full of English majors is a bunch of job openings while lots of intelligent, capable would-be employees struggle to find jobs.