If you are reading this blog you are probably wondering, should I learn a programming language? The answer is an emphatic YES! We live in a world surrounded by computers and software. It is very likely that you use a computer at work to perform at least some of your tasks. As computers become more advanced an increasing portion of peoples jobs and daily activities outside of work will be moving to computers. Learning a programming language opens up an amazing realm of possibilities and understanding within the world of computers. It is like knowing how to work on your car, most people don’t need to know how, but it is a skill that can definitely come in handy.
Picking up the basics of how to create an application provides two significant benefits.
- Knowledge. Knowledge is always extremely valuable. By knowing how to program, you have a better understanding of things that can and cannot be done on computers. You will have a better foundation for speaking with the tech geeks and actual make sense of what they are saying. It also make it easier to spot when someone is lying to you about technology.
- Empowerment. If you need/want a program that will help make your life easier, you can write it yourself. You can automate repetitive tasks and free yourself up to do more of what interests you. Software is a tool, making your own personally tailored tool can be fun and also a huge time saver.
New hires at my company often times will spend hours every week collecting data from multiple excel spreadsheets, collating it together, and running a report off of it. A majority of this effort is repeatable steps that can be automated. I view this as a great opportunity to learn a new skill and save time. Every person who works for me that has reporting duties is given the direction that they must create macros in Excel that automate at least some of their steps, whether that is copy and pasting, formating, summarizing, creating pivot tables, or any other week they need to do. I spend 30 minutes to an hour going over some example macros, how to read them, how they work, and how to make changes. At which point I turn them loose with a mini project and the internet as a guide.
For most people it doesn’t take long to start moving information around or color coding things. The hard part is debugging the problems. We will spend time going through the process of debugging code. There are many ways to do this, I pick whichever method is most comfortable for the person I work with. Once we have fixed one or two problems, they are pretty much self sufficient.
In no time at all I am hearing cheers through the walls and people excitedly talking about how they created a button that changes the row height to 21.75, the perfect height to fit 2 lines of 8 pt Tahoma in a cell. Most of these folks never go on to become programmers, but they better understand the tools they use every day to get their jobs done. Some of them even create cool new applications that save them 5-10 hours of work a week.
In future posts I’ll talk about what language to pick and how to begin learning that language.