Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Who will code our future?

One of those subjects that gets a lot of attention is diversity in coding, where I've posted a couple of times already, but maybe feel like I should say a bit more as I am I guess an anomaly though I'm sure that will change.

Being a Black man, from the Deep South, who not only can code but I've been a lead Java developer, one of seven, on a multi-million dollar project, which we delivered by the way, isn't exactly the norm from what I've heard.

But how did I get there?

Reality is I was obsessed with computers from the moment I heard of them, and was lucky enough that my Dad bought one even though I joke he screwed up with a TI-94A instead of a Commodore 64. I joke that if he'd got the latter we would be billionaires by now as it allowed assembly language coding while I was stuck with BASIC.

So I was coding from the age of 12, as that was back in 1982.

When I eventually ended up doing professional software development, writing code was the easy, but also hard part, as it is difficult to get the best code, and I'm fierce at getting the best code, but also wicked fast. It's weird watching other people, but I digress.

The social part was actually harder. Usually, yeah, I was one of few Black guys. But I didn't detect any walls against Black people. I just applied, interviewed, and went to work. And in fact roared up as a developer until maybe I burned myself out as well as left for personal reasons to pursue personal projects.

I have never seen any indications that Black people are barred.

They apparently just weren't applying. Of if they were, lacked the skillsets to get the job, where I think you best start getting those as a kid. Like with writing, people who become writers tend to be focused on writing from childhood. Why? Good question.

I have only some computer science courses from teenage years, and nothing was asked about them when I got my first coding job. The company just thought it worth letting me try, and I demonstrated ability. Getting that ability is about being excited by computers and coding from childhood.

It's like writing. Coding IS writing, for computers.

The people who will code our future will be dominated I firmly believe by people who started out as kids, fascinated by computers and coding on them. You look at big names who helped define things so far, and yes, they tend to be white males, but they were the ones who yup, had computers or access to them at an early age!

Like Steve Jobs is a great example, as check his history as to when he first got his eager hands onto a computer system.

The best thing we can do for diversity in coding is let kids code.

And it can be about priorities: if parents don't buy that computer for their kids, maybe someone should, as where would I be today if I weren't one of those kids with a computer in his hands at the age of 12 back in 1982?

James Harris
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