Programming 101

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Getting familiar with the basics in a world literally being eaten up by software could be helpful, writes HASNAIN ZAHEER

digital-dreams

In one of the recent issues of Indian Link (Issue 2, July), I had made a case for why kids should be taught programming. Today, I am going to argue why you, an adult business owner or employee, should also learn programming. Like last time, I would like to mention that learning programming is not limited to learning the syntax or the rules of a programming language. Or to learning how to configure a system such as SAP, although that kind of knowledge is not bad to have either.

My recommendation is to be capable of understanding general principles of how internet and mobile applications work, what factors can make them succeed or fail, and knowing how to work with IT, mobile and internet vendors and workers – to understand what they are saying and their scope of work and limitations, and to be able to provide them great requirements. As business owners, you should understand online business. As employees, you should know how to automate part of your work that is manual or repetitive, so you can be more productive.

But before we venture further, let me clarify why I am making this recommendation.

About two years ago, Marc Andreessen, a pioneer of commercial internet wrote how ‘software is eating the world’. He argued that internet and mobile communication and their convergence with commerce, entertainment and business models, is disrupting and taking over entire industries. This is contrary to the general belief in which today’s popularity of Facebook and other dominant websites are seen as just another ‘bubble’.

As proof of his assertion that all industry is going online, Andreessen cited Amazon and the way it transformed the books retail business and even the way we read books now (on Kindle, rather than paper). He also cited streaming music services such as Spotify and Apple iTunes and their effect on the music industry, Linkedin and its effect on recruitment etc. The point is, whole industries are being eaten alive by software and the internet. Your industry may just be waiting in line. Get ready to meet the new reality of an IT-driven world before the business or job is eaten by it (or IT – pun unintended). It does not matter whether your industry is content, media or software driven; many employees of banks, insurance and mining would find their skills inadequate to deal within the new environment.

If Mark Andreessen has convinced you enough to give software a shot to preserve your career or do better in business, here are a few resources to enhance your skills.

To get a feel of programming in an entertaining way, check out amateur game development platform developed by MIT – Scratch (scratch.mit.edu). This is as good for adults to have a flavour of software development, as for kids.

When you are ready for serious stuff, then you can learn programming online interactively at Codecademy (www.codecademy.com). General Assembly (generalassemb.ly/sydney), an educator of start-ups and entrepreneurs, offers classes in web development, computer science fundamentals, data science among others. Classes are held in Ultimo near Sydney CBD. Before enrolling into one of their comprehensive courses, you can attend a few of their workshop sessions that are offered for as low as $40 for a 2 hours session. They also have several videos online (generalassemb.ly/online) that are offered to paid members (about US$25 per month).

Do you think your Excel skills needed a little update? Need to brush up Powerpoint skills? Head over to udemy (www.udemy.com), enter what you want to learn and you would have a choice of dozens of online courses offered by other people like you and me, not necessarily colleges, and who are experts and experienced users. You may subscribe to their courses and complete on udemy’s platform.

Interested in learning how to build an online strategy for your business? Attend Internet business strategy (cce.sydney.edu.au/course/IBST) at the Centre for Continuing Education (CCE) in University of Sydney to learn about business models online, work on the new business for a month and then come back to learn how to implement it (cce.sydney.edu.au/course/IBst). Other one- day workshops at CCE (cce.sydney.edu.au) include mobile strategy, social media and project management. All these are reasonably priced and are quality courses.

Whether you have a preference for planning and strategy, or you are creatively inclined, love numbers, play with data, or create great art, there is a role and an area waiting for you in online, software and mobile. So, polish your programming skills and let’s develop that game. And I am not saying this to kids!