Get Coding

I was recently watching a presentation from analyst firm Gartner, during which the presenter talked about us having moved to a ‘data economy’ from an ‘oil’ economy of years gone past. Data now being the major economic commodity.

We can see the effects of this with companies like Facebook, Google and others making entire companies whose main purpose is to mine data for value. In fact, there are now whole careers that didn’t exist just a few years ago; things like ‘Big Data Analysts’ or ‘Data Scientists’. Whilst these might be at the forefront of parts of the data economy, for many of us, they’re quite disconnected from what we do day-to-day.

We’ve heard rumbling from our geeky friends of a world where everything is connected. The forthcoming ‘5G’ mobile networks are designed not just to accommodate us and our mobile phones, but the millions of other ‘things’ that will connect and exchange data. Perhaps it’s time for us to consider picking up some of the skills that this new revolution is built upon? We might not be looking for a career in this technological wonder-world, but these skills are immediately useful in many areas of business. I’m sure everyone reading this can think of one repetitive task they could automate to increase their efficiency and decrease tediousness!

So... have you thought about coding? Don’t panic, there’s no need to run away screaming! Coding, or programming isn’t just the realm of the uber-geek. You don’t need to be a math wizz, or a computer nerd to learn enough to be useful. In fact, it’s never been easier to learn some basic programming skills than it is today.

When I started programming, things were a good deal more challenging than they are now. You hooked your computer up to the TV, it said a few words on the screen and just sat there with a cursor. No mouse, nothing to click, not even a friendly message to hint what to do next. Most people like me started with a ‘user manual’ - a book clearly written by the most uninteresting of us attempting to extoll the virtues of programming. There was no Internet to check, and the only help you got was from other venturing explorers of programming-land that you knew: kids from school, that one strange older brother of your best friend, a family member, or something like that. My first program helped calculate the weekly grocery bill—not quite Google, but a start!

Today we have a different problem. The technology is massively more powerful, information is all around us, and it’s sometimes very overwhelming to know where to begin. But, it’s no excuse not to try.

There are some fantastic efforts to encourage us to learn coding. CodeAcademy ( is one of many web sites devoted to teaching people of all levels, to get coding. They have courses that cover the basics and teach you to write software in several languages, whether you interested in building things for the web, working with data or something else.

Another fascinating option is the Raspberry Pi, a small $35 computer that was inspired by how we ‘old timers’ learned. It’s a perfect device to learn programming with an absolutely huge community of people to help. At the SBCN we actually use Raspberry Pi’s to automate some of the background processes in our business!

If you can follow a recipe to cook, you can write code. Simple tasks don’t need complicated solutions, and it’s perhaps a lot easier to get started than you think. There are many different technologies and ‘programming languages’ each with their own particular strengths and weaknesses. I’m often asked which I would recommend to a beginner, and I nearly always recommend a language called Python. It runs on just about every computer, it’s easy to pick-up and can be used for everything from data science, to games.

So why not give coding a shot?