Why you should learn to code regardless of your current role


Hays CIO Steve Weston explains how learning to code now could future-proof your career for years to come.

Are you reading this on a mobile, tablet or computer? Did you log into a desktop this morning, or make use of a security pass to get into your building? Do you regularly speak to colleagues, clients and customers via video conferencing? If the answer to any one of those questions is yes, then you’ll indirectly be using coding every day.

Every machine or device that we use relies on coding somewhere along the line. And with roles becoming increasingly digitised, most of us would struggle to do our jobs without it.

In its most basic sense, coding is translating logical actions into a language that a computer will understand. This allows us to tinker with apps, create software and websites, play video games and much more. If we think of coding as the overall means of communication – the voice – then all the different languages are the regional dialects. They’re all words and phrases that are used to communicate with a machine, just expressed in slightly different ways.

Each coding language is designed with a different operating system, platform, coding style and intended use in mind. The common ones you’ll hear are languages such as JavaScript, Python, SQL, PHP, Ruby, Java and C, alongside more modern flavours like Rust, Swift and Hack – though there are many, many more.

Coding is for everyone

It’s not just young people yet to enter the workforce who should learn to code; it’s all of us. From the freelancer needing to make website edits to the finance team wrapping their heads around budget models, coding is for everyone and learning how it works will make us better at our jobs.

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Clever businesses show a dedication to upskilling their existing workforce and tackling the skills gap through personalised training and the encouragement of lifelong learning. Their recruitment strategies also focus on hiring early talent into the coding space, while graduate programmes and apprenticeships tap into early careers, and school talks, code-athons and work experience programmes are used to encourage and inspire the next generation of coding talent.

The key take from this is that it’s becoming increasingly important that organisations actively support their employees’ need to upskill. Not only will they be thankful for the job security it provides, but they’ll also become a hugely valuable resource for your team, now and in the future.

How coding can help future-proof your job

You’d be forgiven for thinking that to learn to code, you need to be a techie or mathematician – that coding is a privilege for the few. The thing is, as the world of work changes and more roles and tasks are automated, it pays to future-proof your career.

According to McKinsey, AI and automation will transform the nature of work and the workplace. It predicts that machines will be able to carry out more of the repetitive tasks undertaken by humans and, as a result, some occupations will decline or change, while others will grow.

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In this same report, it’s suggested that there will still be enough work to go around because technology will create new jobs and change others. But the workforce must adapt to these changes and learn new skills. This workforce will need to learn to co-exist with increasingly capable machines. What better way to do this than learning the languages that control these machines?

Even if a chatbot or robot were to take over the admin or repetitive parts of a customer service role, freeing the people up to do more uniquely human tasks, that technology still needs someone writing the code that feeds into it – someone to tweak it and ensure continual improvement.

This future of technology doesn’t mean a death knell for the workforce. It simply emphasises the need to learn new skills and to consider where technology will play a role alongside your current skillset over the next five, 10 or 15 years. Once you know how your role may change, you can learn the skills that will see you remain employable.

Why learn to code?

According to this study by PwC, 74pc of workers are willing to learn new skills or completely retrain in order to remain employable in the future. And it stands to reason that learning the language of the future will make you employable. The thing is, these skills are useful regardless of your current role. This skillset is clearly in demand, with programming jobs growing faster than the market overall.

While coding is a highly sought-after skill for businesses of all sizes, it’s also an incredibly useful life skill, particularly if you’re a freelancer or contractor. Not only will you be able to create your own website if you learn to code, you’ll be able to automate tasks that could otherwise cause a significant time drain. Things like data entry or responding to easy-to-answer questions from a customer can all be handed over to a piece of software – as long as it’s coded correctly.

Even the most basic knowledge is useful. Why wait for a member of the technical team to get back to you, when you can make small tweaks and changes yourself and move on to the next task quickly and efficiently?

By Steve Weston

Steve Weston is chief information officer at Hays. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays Viewpoint blog.



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