December 14, 2016
Am I Smart Enough for a Coding School?
By Jay Wengrow, CEO of Actualize
The prospect of learning to code is quite daunting to most people. To someone who knows very little about it, the mind conjures up images of lots of green 0’s and 1’s upon a black background. With semicolons, angle brackets, and gobbledygook - software development seems to most as a skill that is some twisted hybrid of advanced calculus and dark magic. Only genius kids in hoodies can truly master such an arcane art.
The truth is that learning to code is - like learning to play piano, or learning to ride a bike - something that does not come naturally to anyone. It requires a different way of thinking. To describe the correct mentality one needs to learn in one sentence: How do I get this mindless piece of metal (i.e. the computer) to do what I want? This way of thinking takes lots and lots of practice. It’s not easy, and anyone who says that it is easy is pulling the wool over your eyes. However, there is a trick to mastering this new way of thinking.
It’s not a small trick - in fact, it’s a very big trick. It’s a trick that will actually change your life beyond simply learning to code.
Even if you never try to learn to code, there’s one takeaway that I want you to get from this website: Please read the life-changing book Mindset by Carol Dweck. It would be too simplistic of me to summarize the entire book in a single blog post, but the entire book hinges upon the following fundamental question: Are humans’ skills, intelligence, and character traits fixed and unchangeable from birth and childhood, or can they be honed and improved over time? Can people of average intelligence and skills only succeed through persistent effort, or can they actually become smarter and more proficient through their effort?
Those who believe that skills and smarts are unchangeable are referred to by Dweck as people who have a fixed mindset. People who subscribe to the theory that skills and smarts can be stretched and expanded have a growth mindset. The entire premise of Mindset is that anyone can adopt a growth mindset, and if they do, they can fulfill much more of their potential and achieve things that weren’t previously possible.
Note the careful wording here: They can achieve things that weren’t previously possible. I did not say that they can achieve things that they didn’t think were possible. That is to say that indeed, with the traits and intelligence that one is born with, it may truly not have been possible to achieve certain feats. However, with a growth mindset, people can push the envelope and develop greater innate abilities - and then achieve amazing things.
At Actualize, we train our students to adopt the growth mindset, and we’ve seen our students who definitely did not have the knack for coding grow into proficient and employed software developers. Students whose previous careers as social workers, artists, and taxi drivers - who may have not fallen squarely into the hole of who one might assume would make the “ideal developer” - became very successful developers.
Attending a coding school can be much, much more than learning to code. It’s about learning to stretch yourself beyond your current capabilities - which is something that you’ll be carry with you in everything else that you do in life.
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