How the self-taught movement is opening the door to a career in coding

GUEST BLOG: In this contributed blog post, Layla Porter, senior developer evangelist at Twilio, talks about how in many cases developers are now self-taught. 

Coding is becoming an in-demand skill across almost every industry. The 11.7% increase in computing A-Level entrants this year is a testament to the rising awareness of the exciting opportunities in the space.

Whilst perhaps historically perceived as a job reserved for computer science or engineering graduates, today coding is attracting people from non-traditional career backgrounds too. A wide range of free online resources and initiatives are making it more accessible than ever to learn to code.

With this fuelling a self-taught movement, many budding developers and employers are now questioning whether you need a degree at all.

Lowering the barrier to entry

Whether you’re a student, or like me, you discover coding after a few years in a different industry, the self-taught movement is lowering the barrier to entry.

Whilst working as a Pilates instructor, my boyfriend, who is a developer, built an online booking system for my Pilates business. I wanted to add more features so I began to tinker with the code and realised that I really enjoyed it. However, it was only after feeling dissatisfied with the growth of my Pilates studio, that I seriously began to consider coding as a career.

I first learnt to code from my home using two free online coding courses called FreeCodeCamp and Microsoft Virtual Academy. Free coding courses such as Codewards, CodinGame and TwilioQuest are helping a new generation of coders build up their skills online and determine if it is a career for them.

In the short period since I’ve been in the industry, the number of coding bootcamps, communities, meetups and now virtual workshops has ballooned. There are more ways than ever before to learn to code in a way that suits how you learn as an individual – without going to university, and in some cases, entirely for free.

Unlike being a lawyer or a doctor, a degree isn’t always necessary to be a developer. Roles in web development are becoming more accessible to those from self-taught backgrounds.

Though there are some specific coding roles where you will need a formal degree – such as hardware engineering or in the fintech sector – the self-taught movement allows you to dip your toe in the water to gauge whether it’s for you before taking your first steps into a more focused career.

How the self-taught movement is tackling diversity

Employers are now waking up to the need for workforces to be diverse. There is a real desire to build teams that reflect the diversity of populations and can bring a range of experiences to the business at all levels.

The tech industry now not only recognises the importance of attracting developers with non-traditional backgrounds, but also those from traditionally underrepresented populations. The industry still has some way to go to address the issue of diversity, but progress is being made to encourage children and adults of all backgrounds to learn to code, thus creating a more diverse talent pool.

Organisations like Girls Who Code have been pivotal in training and encouraging young women to consider a coding career. There is also an important drive to get women of colour into the industry. Mentoring organisations, such as Black Girls Code, run virtual coding camps to give young girls of colour the chance to learn about video game design or robotics.

As well as providing underrepresented groups with access to coding skills, all of these organisations also importantly provide role models and support systems.

For employers, this isn’t a case of a diversity tick box exercise – it’s an urgent demand for more diverse perspectives in business. Businesses have come to realise the significant benefits that their teams, their business and their customers stand to gain from doing so.

Building your own career path

Whilst there is still some way to go to make coding an accessible career for all, there are lots of initiatives in place that are inspiring the developers of tomorrow.

The self-taught movement is helping to open doors at all levels and all stages in life. The beauty is that the ability to code plays to meritocracy – with many developers building up experience and having a successful career without having a degree.

It’s this flexibility and opportunity that will hopefully inspire the next generation of developers.

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