Monday, December 10, 2012

Soon, your taxi driver may know more Ruby than you do!

Saturday picnic in Coding-land

A few weeks ago, I attended RailsBridge as a teaching volunteer.  According to its website, RailsBrige was first organized by two ladies named Sarah & friends to help other ladies become Ruby developers in the San Francisco area.  Ruby is a programming language.  RailsBridge is free.  It is a safe and fun learning community.  It is awesome.

Eager students (from all walks) learn Ruby on Rails, taught by volunteers

Coding for the masses

What I experienced there forced me to think more critically about a changing world.  Increasingly, so-called "non-technical" folks are migrating to the Coding-land, popular among them Ruby, Python, and Javascript.  (By the way, don't you love these language names?)  And the next batch of young students will know increasingly more than you.  Does that excite you or alarm you?

Almost every night around San Francisco, you can find a hack night, where developers and non-developers show up to code or learn to code.  (Tip: they are often sponsored by some tech company, and come with free food and beer.)  Further, batches of new online startups have started teaching programming to the masses, to anyone who wants to learn and has a computer.
  • These include video streams of real courses taught by University professors such as,, and
  • Also relatively new are batches of startups that are teaching the same material in a more modern DIY way through a mix of coding exercises and how-to videos. and Code School are among those with the greatest momentum and funding.
  • Finally, some shops are mixing the face-to-face element with online resources through extended workshops.  They are essentially semester schools, full with Ivy-esque tuition.  You may have heard of Hack Reactor, Devbootcamp ($12k over 9 weeks), or Bloc ($5k over 12 weeks), or App Academy (no upfront pay, but 12.5% of your starting salary for first 6 months).  (Check out Choosing the Best Coding Bootcamp for You.)
Hack Reactor
Whiz kids at Hack Reactor

Hiring pipelines and future of learning

While it's not certain you may get a job after taking Coursera courses, Dev Bootcamp or App Academy practically have become hiring/recruiting pipelines to sexy San Francisco area startups (check out their websites to see for yourself).  And you can see that these organizations represent varying degrees of experimentation with the knowledge format, delivery and pricing.  

Chew on those thoughts for a moment.  It represents the future of learning.  And for a change, it's not an academic debate, but a real-time empirical experiment for all of us to watch.  And it is liberally available to the masses - even those with lower SAT scores than you have.

Brave new world: now what?

I'm pretty sure that a short two years ago (when I was coming out of Darden MBA), these resources didn't exist.  How quickly the world changes!  So, does this mean you should learn to code? Or why should you care?  I enjoy sharing my story about how I started learning to code, and how it allowed me to break into tech even as a MBA grad.

And the truth is, trying something so distant from core competency is scary and painful.  Listen to that fear, and embrace that pain - it might be time for you to step forward, rather than step back.

For now, I am excited that for those who love learning, this is a great time to be alive!

Further Reading

Is Coding Bootcamp worth the cost?  Check out the coding bootcamp vs. MBA ROI post.

Some good books to get you started in programming:

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