If you had come up to me a year ago and told me that I would become a web developer, I would have laughed in your face…hard. But here I am, after having a career as a professional opera singer, learning Ruby, a back-end web programming language used to develop some pretty complex web applications. And I’m actually liking it.
Like many, when I thought of programming, a stereo-type came to mind: one of a socially awkward loner whose brain works at lightning speed and is most likely a genius at math. And when I decided to switch careers at 30, I never thought of coding as a possibility. I was after all, coming from the world of opera. Opera singer turned coder? Ha! But then, at the urging of multiple friends, I decided to give it a chance.
What I discovered was that I was completely wrong about coding. It isn’t just for rocket-scientists and math geniuses. Not to say it isn’t hard. It is. I’m working my ass off. But I found it isn’t this unachievable thing that only people very far-removed from me can accomplish.
I quickly discovered, that I already had skills that are applicable to coding. Programming languages are just that, languages. And more and more, these languages are being developed to mimic the english language. Ruby is a great example of this. Want the word “Hello” to appear on your computer screen? Code in “puts ‘Hello’”. That makes a lot more sense than you thought it would, doesn’t it? Of course, it gets way more complicated than that. But it’s a great example of how learning a programming language is just learning new vocabulary within a new syntax. Anyone who has spent time learning a foreign language, already has experience with this.
I was also surprised by the creativity involved in coding. It isn’t just writing a bunch of zeros and ones that will sit on a server all alone like a chubby girl at a school dance. It’s building something that will speak to the world and could even change someone’s life…or just let them buy shoes, which is also cool. There are a million different ways, especially in Ruby, that allow you to code the same thing. You have a lot more freedom than you think and this is where you can let your creativity flow.
In the future, most of my blog posts will be more technical, focusing on specific aspects of Ruby and coding in general. But I thought it was so important to address this huge misconception the majority of humanity has when it comes to this profession. I urge you take a stab at it. Try your hand at HTML at code.org or codecademy. Or, if you are an experienced coder who wants to help make coding more accessible to more people, volunteer for such non-profits as Girls Who Code or CoderDojo NYC and help spread the code.