Demystifying Coding: What It Is and Why It Matters

Demystifying Coding: What It Is and Why It Matters

 

If someone mentions coding or programming to you, do your eyes glaze over at the prospect of needing to master some arcane computer language? Do you view coding as an impenetrable skill reserved only for the ultra-tech savvy? I’m here to demystify what coding actually means and highlight why it has become such an essential capability in our digital world.

 

If current forecasts hold true, there could be as many as 1 million more programming jobs than applicants by 2020 across the U.S. economy. Tech-fueled innovation has coding demand surging across virtually every industry imaginable – not just technology companies. Yet misconceptions and lack of coding education still deter many from exploring these career opportunities.

 

So let’s break down what exactly coding entails and why everyone from students to professionals should consider gaining familiarity with it, even at a basic level.

What is Coding?

 

In its simplest form, coding (also called computer programming) is the process of using a programming language to get a computer to behave how you want it to. It involves providing a series of instructions for software to execute, creating everything from basic calculators to complex artificial intelligence algorithms.

 

But coding encompasses much more than just software development. It teaches fundamentals like logical thinking, problem solving, and step-by-step instruction that apply widely in both our personal and professional lives. Any task requiring defining clear processes and procedures benefits from taking a coding-style mindset.

 

The goal of coding is really about using various tools and syntax to ultimately give a computer/device a set of instructions to perform specific tasks. It enables creating applications, analyzing data, automating processes, integrating systems and solving a myriad of challenges leveraging technology.

How Coding Works: The Software Development Lifecycle

 

To create software utilizing code, programmers work through a lifecycle involving several key activities:

 

  1. Planning/Requirements: First coding involves defining what problem to solve and the requirements for a successful software solution. This includes mapping user needs, software features, goals and more.

 

  1. Design: Next coders determine the specifications and architecture for the software systems and user interfaces. Experienced developers work closely with designers establishing how the various components should look and function seamlessly together.

 

  1. Build: At the core, coding is about writing lines of instructions in a formal programming language like Python, Java, C++, or JavaScript. These languages allow giving commands that are interpreted into instructions for computers to execute specific actions.

 

  1. Test: As code gets developed, programmers continuously test across different scenarios to identify defects and bugs to iterate the code. Testing ensures quality functionality works as intended for users.

 

  1. Release: Once code goes through multiple test cycles, it gets released for production deployment either through cloud services, app stores or traditional software installations. The build and release process occurs in cycles adding new features over time.

 

  1. Monitor/Maintain: Developers monitor the deployed code for issues and performance while planning updates and ongoing improvements. Code always changes to fix bugs, add new capabilities and enhance security.

Why Does Coding Matter Today?

 

The impact of coding permeates through almost every facet of our daily lives from the smartphone apps we use to browse social media, to the backend systems managing flight logistics, to the algorithms recommending our next video binge on Netflix.  Nearly every significant innovation transforming our world today leverages code in some form.

 

Software literally fuels the digital economy. Code automates business processes, provides the instructions for AI, machine learning and robots, and enables data-driven insights. As industries from manufacturing to healthcare to retail transform through technology, coding skills prove increasingly essential for employees.

 

However, the U.S. and many countries face forecasted shortages of programmers and developers as demand outpaces talent supply. While high-paying coding careers prove appealing to many students, lack of adequate training prevents many from pursuing the field. Trends like the growth of no-code and low-code tools help bridge gaps, but can’t replace the creativity and capabilities core programming skills provide.

Everyone Can Benefit From Basic Coding Exposure

 

Even if one never aspires to become a professional software developer, basic coding skills unlock opportunities to thrive in the digital economy. Coding teaches valuable skills like:

 

  • Problem solving
  • Logical thinking 
  • Breaking down complex tasks
  • Collaborating cross-functionally

 

Plus coding opens pathways to building personal projects giving students exposure to technology. Everyone benefits from learning to “talk” to machines using a basic programming language even before choosing career paths.

 

At higher levels programming allows incredible creative expression through projects combining data, algorithms and user-friendly applications. And with the growth of no-code and low-code tools, coding democratizes further empowering students and citizen developers to build software without extensive formal training.

How Can I Learn To Code?

 

Gaining exposure to coding has become considerably easier over the years thanks to a boom in free and low-cost online coding curriculum and interactive tutorials from Udacity, Coursera, Khan Academy, MIT’s OpenCourseWare and many others.

 

If you’re just getting started, focus first on building a strong foundation in topics like data structures, algorithms, version control tools and principles of software design rather than diving prematurely into specific programming languages and technical details.

 

And don’t think you need a computer science degree to access coding opportunities. Beyond self-study, many coding boot camps and certificate programs now provide accelerated career-directed training getting students job-ready quickly. For working professionals, similar online programs increasingly allow gaining modern coding skills part-time.

 

Corporations increasingly establish internal training initiatives encouraging employees to learn coding as well. Major technology vendors including Apple, Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft also provide training, curriculum and other resources targeting a variety of backgrounds and proficiency levels.

The Takeaway: Coding is Accessible and Empowering 

 

While some still view coding almost mystically as an impenetrable craft only a select few can access, the truth is quite the opposite. Coding is a skill practically anyone can start learning today to reap benefits across academic, career and entrepreneurial pursuits.

 

Few capabilities prove more empowering than understanding how to communicate instructions directly to the machines and technology that increasingly shape our lives each day. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to dive in and start discovering what coding enables you to create and build. The digital future is wide open to those willing to learn these fundamental skills.

 

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