We don’t need everyone to code. But we do need people to understand how Computers work and how to use them effectively.
For example, We need people who understand how to search for patterns in the noise of millions of database records, efficiently. How to configure and performance tune a web server so it can serve photographs of people enjoying themselves. And definitely make sure servers aren’t full of security holes – which are usually left open by sloppy programmers.
Code is often not the final destination in Computing.
The valuable end product is often not the code but the data it subsequently produces and increasingly in large volumes aka big data. Being able to understand, manipulate and secure it is important and that’s not always the same thing as programming.
We are all taught from a young age to use a fork and knife, but not all of us will be surgeons.
I know, it’s a lazy extrapolation (and I’m certainly not saying programmers are the surgeons of Computing – that’s UI designers for me 😉 but you get the jist.
Computing is learning to use a tool and it’s not just about coding.
Here’s a real example:
I worked as a Software Engineer at Reuters in a small R&D team that programmed the Reuters Business Briefing products for web. When I say a small team, although there were only 3 programmers the real team was much larger. Working with us was a team of branding experts, User Interface designers, SQA testers, System Administrators, enterprise network architects, operations deployment engineers and product managers.
If you read back that roll call that worked to deliver what became an award winning product, the number of people writing code was pretty small.
The majority of the jobs on a technical project were clearly not programming. Though, if you talk to the majority of programmers they’d tell you that they’re doing most of the work. But we’re slightly biased!
This is where the educational aspect of Computing beyond coding can have a real impact. There are many great, interesting, important, jobs building products that don’t involve any coding. But what they all need is a solid understanding of Computing.
Why? Because if the research is correct, the next 7 years will see a massive amount of opportunity for our children if they’ve got the correct skills.