Mental-manual labor

Recently, a friend who works in marketing and business development at a small tech startup was offered the chance to attend a two-month code academy, paid for entirely by her company, as a first step towards transitioning to a role as a developer. (Go get 'em, girl!) I am writing this post in response to a conversation with her.

When I interned in Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Late-Stage Chemical Development group, I was told entry-level chemists get paid only three-quarters what an entry-level chemical engineer makes. "Chemistry is a skillset; engineering is a way of thinking."

It’s an ugly distinction. After all, critical thinking is what makes us human, and chemists are unquestionably human!

In light of this fact, I am wary of the idea that “everyone should learn to code.”

Coding requires critical thinking. (In fact, because coding requires a strong grasp of the rules of logic, and I would argue that coding IS critical thinking.) But, too often, programming is considered a skillset by wannabe-tech-founders. Coding becomes a form of mental-manual labor, where coders have limited choice in project and platform.

Learning to code opens new job opportunities, but it's not a magic bullet. Critical thinking and communicating that ability to employers is more crucial to success in the corporate world than any programming class is.


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