Should I become a programmer?

Perhaps you’ve realised your job or study really isn’t for you, and you’re looking to change lanes. Maybe you’ve even eyed up Enspiral Dev Academy already, and the idea of an 18-week boot camp to parachute into a new career appeals. But you’re not a tech or a physics person, and you’re bad at maths — could you really be programmer material? Will you even get a job?

Joshua Vial is a catalyst at Dev Academy. He’s an entrepreneur and a founder of the Enspiral network. We asked him to talk about who the best web developers are.

About 50% of our students have absolutely no coding, developer, programming, or IT background when they get started. You don’t need to be a science or maths or a tech person. Half the people we work with have never programmed before and they just really want to try it.

There’s definitely a correlation between maths and science students and the parts of the brain they use, but there’s also a good correlation with what I’ve seen between musicians and programmers, or between people who have to build things with their hands and programmers, or people who like rock climbing and programmers. If you think about people who love rock climbing, it’s not just about the physical stuff; it’s about the problem or the challenge. It’s the sequence of moves, and that has nothing to do with maths or science. There are lots of people I know who are great climbers, who would hate science class or hate mathematics, but they love climbing — and the part of the brain they use on a really challenging climb, they could use programming.

I think poets make good programmers, or communicators or language people. When you look at people with deep linguistic skills, there’s a mental aptitude that’s really useful in some parts of programming. There are other parts of programming where a deep mathematical aptitude is essential.

Listen to one Enspiral Dev Academy graduate, poet and web developer Gregory Kan, talking about creativity on RNZ National.

The great thing about programming is that when someone builds a library, other people can use it. The big, hard mathematical problems get solved, and then people who don’t know how to solve those problems can use their solutions. You can do a huge amount in programming without knowing how deep maths works. In the past that wasn’t the case; in the 70s and 80s you had to build low-level stuff yourself. But because we’re building these stacks one upon another, there’s a lot more diversity of skills and backgrounds needed in world of programming and in the jobs that are opening up. There are roles for all different types of brains and strengths.

That’s why if you hate maths and science you can still be a good programmer. There are some types of programming you won’t be suited for, and others you might be wonderfully suited for. For example, if someone’s got a very strong design background and a very visual way of thinking, they will be one of the best front-end developers around, because they understand people, user experience, visuals, and how thus to build front ends. But then if they also learn the technical skills to actually implement them and not just pass them to the engineering team to implement, you can actually enact that with no maths.

I’ve found the biggest indicator for how fast someone will learn programming is how much programming they’ve done before. The people who can build the most early on are the ones who’ve done the most coding previously, but that’s not the only thing that matters. It’s how hard do you work, how well do you know yourself, and how well can you learn? People who’ve got a lot of self-criticism or a lot of blocks in the way of their learning, will always learn more slowly, whereas people who can remain positive in the face of continual frustration will learn faster. That’s why we believe in teaching the whole person at EDA, including getting to know yourself better.

Read more from Joshua Vial on Why Dev Academy teaches JavaScript.

Want to become a programmer? Sign up at Enspiral Dev Academy now, in Auckland or Wellington, New Zealand.