Coding: The second language of the future

By Julio Filho

Engineering wannabes of all majors know the struggle of making a good impression during career fair interviews, but for those outside computer science and engineering majors, one question can be particularly frustrating: “Do you have code experience?”

Showcasing yourself in the engineering job market with little to no experience in computer language can be somewhat difficult. Even those skilled in their areas of study can face computer programming as a decisive factor when applying to internship positions.

“Many science and engineering domains require a knowledge of some programming language to solve even the simplest problems in that domain,” said Volodymyr Kindratenko, adjunct associate professor in Engineering. 

But although a computer science or engineering degree is not for everyone, fortunately, digital literacy is.

We cannot deny that computers deeply integrate into contemporary life and jobs, and if you’re not a Luddite that believes that destroying technology with a screwdriver or a baseball bat will solve all your problems, there’s just two roads to be taken: You can resist and be left behind, or adapt to the new circumstances. 

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Knowledge in a programming language is more than a core skill to keep competitive in this cut-throat market – it helps us to understand and operate in a digital reality we use everyday: It allows us to have power of action in this brave new digital world. Don’t buy software to solve small daily problems, do it yourself.

Mattox Beckman, Jr., senior lecturer in Engineering, said, “programming is useful for most people because it can do things that an Excel spread sheet will not be able to do for you. So any task that is repetitive is a task that can be done or assisted by a computer.” 

If you want to solve problems like keeping track of books that you lend, calculate your grades or monthly bills, life gets much easier with code lines. It is an extension of your human limitations.

And these powerful coding possibilities explain why so many companies want to hire candidates who know how to program and code. The skill helps people regardless of their major area of study.

For example, “linguists are heavy users of Python; business school graduates write complex formulas in spreadsheets, etc. For all these domains, the practical benefits of knowing some programming include the ability to solve complex problems quicker with the resources at hand,” Kindratenko said.

The benefits of coding also explain why computer science became such an issue in many countries’ education throughout this decade. Here in the U.S., for example, President Obama addressed American students: “Learning these [computer science] skills isn’t just important for your future; it’s important for our country’s future.” 

He’s right: Being updated with technology is a fundamental factor to keep both people and entire countries in tune with an exponentially technologically advanced world. And if this new zeitgeist makes you interested in learning more, it’s surprising how easy it can be to learn how to code.

Python and Ruby are good computer languages to start with; They are easy, practical and run almost everywhere. But the choice is up to the user, and the possibilities are many. 

“Anything that can be used to specify a set of instructions for a program or device also counts as a programming language,” Kindratenko said.

The first thing to know is that programming is not a theoretical and formal experience, but a practical skill. You learn it through contact and experimentation. It’s really a language as the name suggest. And after knowing the basics, the possibilities and utility of the skill grows exponentially. 

In Beckman’s words: “When you know how to program, it opens up your mind to possibilities that you would never thought of before.”

Forget the Mandarin and Spanish. Computer programming will be the second language of the future. Every student, even those outside science and engineering circles, should consider learning it as much as theycan. Coding is the path to extend our power of creation and ingenuity further than our human limitations, and there’s no reason why you should be left behind.

Julio is a freshman in Engineering.

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