Don’t Worry, We’ll Keep Coding

Scott Francis
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Many economists, journalists, and business owners have fretted over the lack of software design, development, and engineering talent – specifically, the fact that it appears to be in limited supply while the demand for such talent is increasing apace.

First, I wouldn’t be so quick to believe that supply and demand are as out of balance as people think, overall.  But let’s set that aside for this discussion.

The fear is that people won’t flow to where the demand is when demand is high.  I respectfully disagree.  In 1999, I recall talking with friends of mine who majored in archaeology or art history who were writing code for their respective startups.  It has never been unusual to run into electrical engineers and aeronautics engineers who had switched to software when the chip design or NASA jobs didn’t pan out.  Some people use these examples as an example of what’s wrong with a bubble.  But it is actually the economy at work – people are attracted to opportunities to improve their life or to do work that they find interesting.  In 1999, perhaps more of the attraction was improving one’s life.  But I think “coding” has become more interesting to the general public than it used to be.

In Austin, MakerSquare started offering coding classes last June.  The classes cost $11,600, so they’re not cheap or free.  And this isn’t an accredited program at a school.  This is just to scratch the “I want to learn to code now” itch:

MakerSquare LLC started its first class last June and now receives 10 applicants per day for the $11,600 program that features small classes and long days. The demand for such instruction has been so strong that the startup’s founders are now considering how they want to expand.

Putting that into perspective:

MakerSquare, which employs 16 workers, operates from two downtown locations. Class sizes range from 30-40 that are segmented into pods of students with six students apiece. About 50 percent of applicants are from outside Texas.
Patel said 98 students have completed the program and 80 percent are working in coding or have received job offers.

[…]

Of course universities and colleges teach coding but Patel said most of what students learn isn’t useful to the latest startups. MarketSquare tailors its program to what employers are seeking.

Think about that for a minute – 80% are working in coding jobs or have received job offers to do so.

I think that the change in attitude about coding reflects a change in attitude about startups.  First, that startups can be a rewarding and fulfilling element of one’s work life or career.  Second, that coding is an necessary rite of passage to join startups or start them.

It’s also great to see someone focused on teaching what are perceived to be the most marketable coding skills at the moment – as this is a constantly changing target, and universities aren’t (typically) the fastest to adjust.