Tell your kids to be coders

Don’t get a job, invent one, or so the saying goes.

When I was about 10 years old, I remember by Social Studies teacher telling my class that when we grew up, many of us would have jobs that didn’t exist yet.

I was dumbfounded. I could list at least 10 jobs off the top of my head: fireman, policeman, doctor, lawyer, businessman, astronaut, president, teacher, nurse, actor (each of which I assumed was about as prevalent as the rest). But for some reason, I couldn’t conjure up any job that didn’t exist already. It was as if somebody had told me that there are other colors besides the ones I could already see, and I was tasked with creating an image in my mind of how these mysterious hues might appear.

50 years ago, the title of “software engineer” didn’t even exist. And when it was first coined around the late 60’s, it was scoffed at for its seemingly oxymoronic play on words. Everybody knew that engineers designed stuff, physical stuff. Calling someone a software engineer seemed as silly as labeling them a flightless pilot or a stone horticulturist. 

If we take a giant step back, we can observe the birth of what is potentially the most high growth, disruptive, and valuable craft that humankind has every seen, that of the coder.

They – are – everywhere.

Anybody who has conducted a quick search on any job listing website can attest to the fact that coders are in hot demand. How disappointing it is to the layman to see all of these postings asking for literacy in languages we’ve never heard of before. Regardless of the occupational category, there is always a place for a coder.

Law, real estate, finance, tourist, entertainment… the list goes on. Everybody needs help creating integrated networks, realtime analyses, and scalable customer interfaces.

In my own career realm of Life Sciences, I work daily with people who can say with a straight face: “My job is to make radiologists obsolete” or “In ten years, treatment decisions will be determined by evidence-based algorithms that create pathways with the highest probability of positive outcomes.” 

Being a coder, coupled with some domain-specific expertise such as medicine or supply chain management, is the ultimate power combo in today’s mercurial market place.

In addition, the ability to code provides a method to comfortably straddle two career paths for your entire working life: That of the employee, and that of the entrepreneur. Coders can go back and forth depending on their preferences. They can find employment in any industry they please, with the option to strike off on their own when the right opportunity presents itself. And if they play their cards right, they can get their work done in a cramped Manhattan apartment as easily as on the beaches of Bora Bora.

No wonder that the coding elite have descended upon Bitcoin in swarms. It’s a magnificent place for them to put their skills to the test, create meaningful solutions, and potentially earn gobs of money.

Everybody today can benefit from even a little bit of programming knowledge. But if you truly find the art of coding to be beyond your abilities, at least tell your kids that if they work hard, and want to make an impact in the world, that they could do a lot worse than becoming a coder.

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