Can Anyone Be a Coder?

Like any 20-something with student loans, potential opportunities to pad my bank account usually catch my eye.

The latest of these such opportunities arose last summer when I started working at 36 Degrees North. It's the hub of a lot of innovation, and most of that innovation is fueled by computer programing. So, needless to say, the place is packed with coders and efforts to increase coding education.

Through a few conversations with friends and my new coworkers, I discovered two things: 1) Coding is not reserved for rocket scientists and those little geniuses who build computers from scratch when they’re 7-years-old. And 2) Those who code make bank. We’re talking very comfy starting salaries that would easily make ramen and easy mac a thing of the past. Holla atcha boy.

So this got me thinking... Is this a career path I should explore? I didn’t suck at math in high school, and I know a fair amount about technology... Don't get me wrong, I love my current job. But maybe my interaction with these computer programmers was the universe telling me to branch out a little bit. Could I be a coder? Can anyone be a coder?

While enjoying a few cold ones on a Friday afternoon, I told our member Wassim about my recent ponderings. Wassim is a computer programmer who created his own app, so I knew he would have some legitimate insight. And sure enough, he did.

He told me about a national non-profit he was bringing to Tulsa called RailsBridge. The mission of RailsBridge, according to their website, is to "teach people to code because we believe that the people making technology should accurately reflect the diversity of those using it." In other words, they want to make coding education accessible to a more diverse crowd, specifically women and minorities.

RailsBridge Tulsa students and volunteers. Jan 2017.

RailsBridge Tulsa students and volunteers. Jan 2017.

The class Wassim was teaching was free, only for women and a 5-minute drive from my house. The only thing I had to give up was a Friday night and a Saturday. No prob. So I decided to jump in and try it out.

Here were my thoughts going into the weekend.

 
 

As you can see, I started this process with a fair amount of optimism. 

The first night was  just to install all the (software? programs? still not really sure what all that stuff was called) onto our computers. Here's how that went.

 
 

But it's amazing what a good night of sleep can do. Cue rejuvinated optimism.

 
 

As I mentioned earlier, Wassim Metallaoui was our fearless leader who brought the RailsBridge program to Tulsa and taught a room full of gabbing women the first steps of coding. Here's what he says were his goals were for the weekend.

 
 

A few things I love about what he says: 1) He doesn't expect everyone to be coders by the end of this. Such a relief because (spoiler alert) I will probably never be a coder. Just walking away with a better understanding of coding is success in his eyes. Yay! And 2) Wassim has a real desire to help people get plugged into the computer programming world. He wants to open the door for women and usher them in with the utmost encouragement. This guy is great, and you all should meet him and become his friend.

Moving on...

We spent the morning learning more about programming. We covered the history, elaborated on the key terms and started taking some action steps on Ruby (a computer language) and Rails (a computer framework). And as you can see, I hung in there.

 
 

I think my favorite part of the whole day was wondering around the room during breaks talking to women about why they were there. We had about 20 women in our class, and they all had a unique perspective on why coding is important in their lives. Here are a few words from the kind souls who agreed to go on camera.

 
 

As you can see, the response is overall very positive!

The rest of the day was spent using Ruby and Rails to create a computer application. I won't get into the nitty gritty of it all (quite frankly, because I'd probably mess it up), but at the end of the day, my program worked. So I would consider that a victory. I may or may not have treated myself to some "wow, I survived that and I should celebrate" ice cream after recording this last video.

 
 

So as a short answer to my original questions, yes. I believe anyone can become a computer programmer. It's not rocket science. It's just something that will require a lot of time, effort and mental energy. So if you're up for the challenge, I would say go for it!

Our team would love to help you get plugged into Tulsa's vibrant programming community. The next RailsBridge class is June 16-17, 2017. It's free and open to the public, but space is limited. Click here to reserve your spot.

Till then, we encourage you to check out these different monthly meetups to meet coders of all skill levels and get a little exposure to the growing industry:

Happy coding!