Why You Should Learn How to Code

by Mattan Griffel – Founder, One Month Rails

I am not a developer. I never got a degree in computer science and I’ve never been paid to write a line of code in my life. Yet I’m now CEO of an online education startup teaching people how to code, and other skills they need to start their own companies (disclaimer: Winklevoss Capital is an investor in One Month). So how did I get here?

When I first quit my job two years ago to start my own company, all I had was an idea. My goal was to find someone who knew how to code to build my idea for me.

I learned very quickly that this was never going to happen. I went to tech event after tech event stuffed with business founders who didn’t have an ounce of technical knowledge and were trying to hawk their idea on any developer they could find.

Soon I faced a troublesome dilemma: If I wanted my startup to happen, no one was going to do it for me. I had to figure it out on my own.

So I signed up for a handful of online classes, moved out to San Francisco and got busy learning. While I ran into a lot of dead-ends, by the end of it, I had a working prototype. More importantly, I was armed with a new set of tools and knowledge that I could use to make my mark on the world; it felt like having superpowers.

The most amazing thing I realized was that coding is not hard – anyone can do it – it’s just that learning how to code is hard because most of the resources out there suck. Either they move way too fast and assume you already have a lot of knowledge that you don’t, or they go way too slow and keep you in the weeds forever so you never learn anything that’s actually useful.

Web development requires a pretty unique set of skills, like knowing how to get your application hosted, connecting it to a database, combining html with css and javascript, etc. That’s where One Month comes in. In our first class, One Month Rails, we teach people what those things are and how to make them interact with each other.

It seems like a pretty obvious concept, but it’s one that is largely overlooked. In most colleges and high schools across the country, when a student wants to learn computer science, they’re taught C++ or Java, two of the oldest languages out there (1983 and 1995, respectively). Furthermore, they’re taught it outside of the context of how it’s actually used and applied. So it’s no wonder people get scared when they initially start learning.

Admittedly, a month isn’t much time to really master anything, much less programming. But it may just be enough time to start a shift in the way people think and to serve as a launch-pad for some people to decide they really want to jump in. At least it did for me.

Knowing even a little bit about code opens up a whole world of opportunity: it helps with problem-solving, it gives a greater understanding of systems that you use, it allows you to automate work or make work more efficient. Most importantly, in a future where technology is everything, you and I are going to need to know how to code if we want to design and direct the world around us.

I think there’s a big future in coding education and online education in general. Besides One Month Rails, there are other amazing resources out there like Code SchoolTreehouse and many others. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you start – all that matters is that you keep moving. The easiest way to make sure that you stop growing is to stop learning.

Photo Credit: Robert Couse-Baker