I have a 16-year-old son who is very passionate about computers and
programming and not so passionate about school. He would rather just be allowed
to sit and do code all day.
Would you say that I should just go with my gut feeling and let him do this
instead of having the focus on Dogwood Diplomas and college where we are
fighting all day long to get him to do his schoolwork? Of course, I will still
have him do his Math and English.
In this excerpt from
Answercast #23, I discuss many of the things learned in a school environment
that will help with a future work career in coding. It’s best to keep up with
all subjects in school.
Focus on coding?
One of the things I’ve learned over the years is best reflected in an article I wrote some time ago called “The one thing that I wished I’d done differently“.
The short answer is: as much as it’s tempting to let him do only or primarily coding, the fact is that the real world needs more.
School is important
When he gets into a situation where he’s actually doing his passion as a job (for other people), there’s so much more to the work than just writing code.
The one thing that I wish I had done differently was pay more attention in English class. I absolutely hated English class and the reason was that the class was taught in such a way that I was being forced to write about and learn about things that I didn’t care about. But… the fundamentals were still critically important.
As I look back and see not only what I’ve turned into (primarily, a writer), but what I was doing while I was writing code (while I was working at Microsoft writing software), it was communicating with other people, communicating in the written word with other people.
That’s why I keep focusing back on English class for me, specifically.
The fact is that no matter where your son ends up working, there is much more to his job than just writing code.
Other skills set a coder apart
There will always be so much more at the job than just writing code, and to be honest, one of the things that will set him apart as a potential employee is not just his ability to code, but his ability to do all those other things that are involved in doing the job.
Sometimes, people refer to them as soft skills. I hesitate to classify things that way though yes, there’s a lot of stuff in school that has nothing to do with the eventual job.
On the other hand, all that stuff in school is teaching you:
- How to deal with other people,
- How to deal with things that you don’t want to deal with (even when you’re coding, there will be times), and just
- How to learn (how to go about finding answers to problems that you need to find answers to).
So, while it’s hard for me to say you need to go ahead and pound on him and make him do the work in school, I think more importantly, he needs to realize that there is significantly more to life than coding.
Software engineering skills
There is significantly more to being a software engineer or programmer than just writing software. All that other stuff that he’s doing in school will turn out to be critically important.
I know it’s a lesson I learned much too late. It’s a lesson that I wish I had learned early on. It’s a focus that I wish I had taken when I was still in school: to take a look at some of the other disciplines besides just pounding out code.