I’m starting up to solve a problem I care deeply about…. Should I learn how to code? Should I outsource development? Should I study computer science? These are questions that every first time entrepreneur asks. Back in 2014, my vehement answer in an article called “Should We Require Computer Science Classes?” was to learn computer science or at least be able to program yourself. The basic premise has been echoed throughout mass media with everyone from Bill Gates to the New York Times to the Estonian Government pushing more students to learn how to code.
And perhaps in the age when cloud computing made it possible for twenty-somethings with an internet connection to create Facebook, this was a good idea. For the past ten years, software really has eaten the world as Andreessen Horowitz and Netscape founder Marc Andreessen proclaimed in 2011: today we call our taxis from Uber, we stream movies on Netflix, and we order food through DoorDash.
Four out of five of the largest companies in America (by market cap) are software driven tech companies and for the past ten or so years, it seemed like studying computer science or at least “learning how to code” was like an El Dorado to becoming “the next Mark Zuckerberg.”
Or if the whole “start up and change the world thing” didn’t work out, there was a relatively paved and uncertain path to a plush six-figure software engineering gig right out of college at a Silicon Valley tech company (Glassdoor reported the average Silicon Valley software engineer’s salary was ~$110k as of July 2017).
What’s to lose?
Coding bootcamps like Flatiron School, General Assembly, and Make School arose soon and seemed to promise the impossible — bypass a four-year computer science education to covet a software engineering role in San Francisco after only a few months. Plus with the deluge of venture dollars being deployed into startups (2015 saw$47.2 billion invested), there was always an excess demand for software engineers at high-tech companies.
But now it seems like the very fact that these coding bootcamps even exist prove that software engineering as we know it is quickly becoming commoditized….After all, if a non-engineer can learn software engineering in three months, why can’t that work be offshored or even automated? For this reason among others, many successful coding bootcamps are now closing.
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