So a predictable furore gripped my twitter feed as footage of Lottie Dexter, head of the UK’s Year of Code initiative, appearance on Newsnight emerged.
My concern is not that she doesn’t know how to code but that she was able to so comprehensively belittle the very skillset she was trying to apparently promote.
I’m a tech entrepreneur and developer who’s directly employed around 50 developers in my companies and thus have interviewed hundreds. As well as that I’m in my second year running Code Clubs and am a Governor (Director now it’s an Academy) at my local secondary school.
If you translate what Lottie was saying to other industries, it’d be like saying you just need to learn how to lay bricks in a straight line and you can build a house.
Belittling the craft of software development, indeed any skill, can only be of detriment to the UK economy. Yes, I understand that the messaging is about breaking down the barriers but that is not going to prepare people for when it gets difficult.
Software development, like all skills, requires hard work, motivation and endeavour to reach a level at which you can make a valuable contribution. We need to help young people to find the motivation to get through those hard times.
The messaging of UK Coding/Lottie Dexter is in danger of just making people feel stupid because they don’t get it.
As someone who is trying to teach children to write software, the hardset job I have is keeping them motivated. Giving them context that helps them see why the hard work is worth it. The drop-off rate when we moved from Scratch to HTML and then onto Python was considerable.
The few that have stuck with it have found their own motivation and my role is to nurture and facilitate that. Hopefully turning round those that are wavering.
As an employer, the only people I’m interested in are those that care about what they do, are always looking to better themselves and a prepared to put the work in to better themselves. Those are the people that can make a difference to an organisation and thus to the UK economy.
If we want the build a skills based economy then we should celebrate those that have worked hard to develop those skills not belittle them.