I’m not a teenager, but I’m only six years removed from being one. I can remember that era of my life quite vividly, and I can remember my many mistakes. I also remember that social media was in its’ infancy when I was a teen, so the worries about my mistakes haunting me were minimal compared to what is possible nowadays – not eliminated, but minimal.
But I’m not going to use this piece to discuss the “typical” mistakes we make when we’re young (underage drinking, partying) but rather much more subtle decisions that can have just as much, if not more, of a long term impact.
When I was a freshman in college I knew what career I wanted to pursue and was excited about it – but teens often think they understand everything when they don’t. It turned out that particular career path wasn’t right for me and I was pretty miserable pursuing it. By sophomore year I decided to switch gears and go back to the drawing board to find something I could commit to.
I had options, hundreds of options; and looked at all of them. Technical fields like computer science, engineering, and programming were all possibilities but I didn’t seriously consider these. I had had very limited experience writing HTML code in grade school; and of the many skills, and subjects, to concentrate on coding didn’t hold my interest in the slightest. With my very rudimentary HTML experience in mind I didn’t think I would stand a chance in a major that revolved around a skill-set like that. The vision of potential Cs and Ds in computer science danced in my mind, taunting me.
Not to mention I actually had an interest, and some skill, in a bunch of other subjects that kept me engaged: sociology, sustainability, philosophy, political science, history, psychology, urban planning, public policy – all of these, and others, held my attention more than coding.
Well, THAT was a huge mistake, being interested in subjects that aren’t code. Because it’s now years later and programming is the skill-set that employers are demanding. Whoops.
So after six years of full-time studies, and a lot of student debt, I started to look into learning to code while I was winding down my master’s courses. Problem is, it was still not something that interested me all that much. Sure I’d like to build an app, but to get to that stage you need to know Ruby, or Python, or any one of the various coding languages out there (or many of them). HTML and CSS are now considered basic stuff, even in some non-technical fields. And while creating apps would be neat, my interest doesn’t go much beyond cursory glances.
I know I’m not the only one in this position. There have been scattered reports over the past few years of tech companies being unable to fill positions because, supposedly, the applicant pool lacks the necessary skills for the jobs. And there are literally millions of unemployed and underemployed young people looking for rewarding careers. There’s a disconnect.
There are indeed some startups that actually try to teach coding to people without that particular skill-set – I’ve even tried some of the courses out there, but nothing has stuck. I’ve also heard that it can take roughly a year for someone to learn to code up to the level of being employable for that skill. I suppose once again trying these resources is worth pursuing because forget about paid-training, or an in-house development program for people to learn these skills on the job. I haven’t come across many tech companies willing to do that.
So here I am, typing this piece with Code Academy’s introductory Ruby course in the next tab over. This will be yet another attempt to force myself to love coding, but I’m not optimistic things will be much different this time either. But hey, you never know right? We try, we fail, we make mistakes. Here’s to hoping mistakes can be overcome.