Be Anything You Want, but Not a Programmer
Embracing beginners: this article explores a perspective on learning, resentment, and identity in the world of programming.
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Here’s a valuable piece of advice for anyone embarking on a new learning journey: disregard individuals who derive pleasure from belittling beginners. Some individuals take delight in undermining novices, perhaps out of insecurity or past experiences of being bullied, which gives them a misguided sense of power. Regardless of their reasons, if someone is trying to make you feel inadequate for trying something new, don’t pay attention to them. They simply lack empathy.
Back in 2012, Jeff Attwood wrote an article advising against learning how to code. I can’t help but wonder if he’ll give the same advice to his own children when they express a desire to follow in their father’s footsteps. It’s highly unlikely. He’ll likely enthusiastically guide them through the coding process, emphasizing how enjoyable and rewarding it can be encouraging them to pursue it wholeheartedly. Yet, according to his previous stance, coding is a pursuit exclusively reserved for Jeff and his kids.
Consider this scenario: Imagine if Jeff’s child attended school, and a teacher said something like this: “Stop trying to learn to code. Even if your Dad does it, you’re just not good at it, and the world doesn’t need poorly written code. Find another hobby, perhaps painting.” The absurdity of such a statement highlights the importance of supporting and encouraging learners, regardless of their skill level, rather than discouraging them based on their current abilities.
Jeff would undoubtedly be furious. He might consider taking action against the teacher, although given his demeanor, he might politely request the teacher to refrain from making such hurtful remarks. The essential point here is that Jeff would be upset if someone told his son that he couldn’t pursue something he was interested in.
However, it’s perplexing that Jeff himself is advising others against learning to code. He’s discouraging not just children but also adults aspiring to enhance their lives or acquire new skills. He’s even telling individuals from different professions that programming won’t benefit them. Why? The underlying reason is resentment.
Ironically, I take pride in being the originator of the idea that anyone can learn to code, a concept that has gained traction (not through Codecademy or similar platforms). Over time, I’ve encountered a growing faction of experienced programmers who harbor resentment toward newcomers. They are envious of how effortlessly these newcomers can grasp programming concepts, especially considering the abundance of free learning resources today. Unlike today’s accessible learning environment, we older programmers had to navigate a landscape devoid of free books and courses. We had to immerse ourselves in numerous books and piles of code just to achieve our current proficiency. Consequently, these seasoned individuals resent the newcomers’ comparatively easier path to acquiring programming skills, leading them to discourage others from pursuing it.
These seasoned programmers are also frustrated that newcomers are bypassing the traditional learning paths they hold dear. The question, “How can you truly understand C programming without reading K&R?” or insist, “Real programmers study the ‘Gang of Four’ as I did.” When they witness new coders emerging with considerable skills without delving into these outdated reference materials, it fuels their resentment. They also struggle to believe that these newcomers are genuinely proficient for the same reason.
In reality, if we, the experienced programmers, genuinely advocate for a meritocratic system, we should be welcoming beginners regardless of their chosen learning methods. Believing in the principle that someone’s potential isn’t bound by their background or qualifications implies that everyone has the capacity to improve, and their abilities should be assessed based on their current skills. Criticizing others simply because they didn’t follow the exact path we did stems from spiteful resentment.
It’s time to move past this resentment and embrace a more inclusive perspective.
Here’s a valuable insight: the key to mastering any skill is to avoid defining yourself solely by that activity. While I refer to myself as a programmer, it’s more accurate to say I’m someone who writes code, among various other pursuits. Coding isn’t my identity; it’s merely one facet of the multifaceted and intriguing person I am. Defining who I am is a complex, indescribable endeavor.
If you approach coding in the same way, learning it for your own personal reasons rather than tying your identity to it, you’ll find fulfillment and success commensurate with your efforts. But if you attach your entire identity to being a programmer, changes such as the widespread belief that “everyone can code” might breed resentment, as it challenges your sense of uniqueness.
Published at DZone with permission of Mohamed aboelez. See the original article here.
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