Part One: The 42-Year-Old Coding Virgin

“Hello. My name is Gino Bona. I live in Raleigh, North Carolina and I’m a coding virgin. I graduated from Ithaca College twenty years ago with a degree in Television and Radio, which won’t do me a damn bit of good over the next four weeks. So I have that going for me.”

That’s how I’ll introduce myself to my instructor and classmates on Monday morning when I arrive at Code Fellows’ Computer Science & Web Development Bootcamp in Seattle. It will be four consecutive weeks of lectures and labs on the finer points of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, GitHub, data structures, and algorithms.

I’ve had two distinct acts in my professional career and neither of them have involved writing code. I spent 13 years in advertising —on both the agency and client sides. I worked my way up from a copywriter to vice president of marketing for a bank holding company. In 2009, I joined the intelligence community as a contracts manager. My days of dreaming up big ideas and clever copy have been replaced with writing proposals, reviewing non-disclosure agreements, and negotiating labor rates.

And now I’m going to hit the pause button on my existing life so I can learn how to code?

That’s right.

Allow me to explain a few factors fueling my desire to learn how to code.

First, I view coding as a critical employability skill. If you don’t know how to code, you’re instantly unqualified for hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States where coding is a requirement. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts the number of software development jobs will increase by 30% through 2020. The Bureau’s forecast doesn’t even account for non-programming jobs where knowledge of coding is a requirement (i.e., digital marketers, digital strategists, product managers). Bottom line: you will have more employment opportunities if you know how to code.

Second, I want to show my children the importance of setting a goal and doing everything within their power to achieve that goal. I want them to see their father willingly put himself outside of his comfort zone. I want them to see their father commit himself to learning a new skill — one that can improve their chances to succeed when they enter the job market.

The third reason is a fear of not being useful. The torch will soon be passed to the next generation of bright minds and dreamers. They won’t hold the torch because of their age. They’ll hold the torch because of the perspective and skills they possess. I don’t want to be left behind.

I don’t have to go to an immersive bootcamp to learn how to code. There are plenty of alternative options. I can take some learn-at-your-own-pace online classes from Codeacademy, Treehouse, or Code School. These interactive platforms offer several online classes where students can learn how to code. But I know myself all too well and I don’t do things half-assed. If anything, I tend to do things double-assed.

Which is exactly why I’m temporarily stepping away from my job and flying 3,000 miles to learn how to code. And I certainly wouldn’t be able to attend Code Fellows’ bootcamp if it wasn’t for an understanding wife and wonderful friends.

I’ve been married for thirteen years and my wife, Stephanie, has put up with an unimaginable number of my grand ideas and aspirations. She’s heard me say, “I need to learn how to code!” hundreds of times. By encouraging me to go to Code Fellows, Stephanie will never have to hear me complain about not knowing how to code ever again.

I’m also fortunate to have such considerate friends that live in Seattle. Brian and Kari are letting me live with them for a month while I study at Code Fellows. There are few things more satisfying than having friends who truly understand you and embrace you for who you are. In addition to Stephanie and my soon-to-be roommates, there’s one more necessary ingredient that will enable me to immerse myself in the world of coding: guts.

I’m fully aware that learning to code is not going to be easy. I’m going to put myself in a situation that I haven’t experienced in over two decades. I’m going to be vulnerable in a class where I don’t know the subject matter. I’m going to be older than most —if not all—of my classmates. I’m going to live in someone else’s home. I’m not going to see my wife and children for four weeks. I’m not going to have a car. I’m going to ride a bus every day in an unfamiliar city so I can learn a language that’s foreign to me.

So the obvious question is, “Since you’re going through all of this trouble, what’s your grand plan after completing this bootcamp?”

I have no idea. And that, too, factors into my decision to attend Code Fellows’ Bootcamp.

I want to revisit the unknown. I want to feel vulnerable. I want to put myself in uncharted situations. I want to combat complacency while creating opportunities. I want to evolve.

No matter what the outcome might be, I’m not going to be a coding virgin much longer. Hey, it’s better late than never.

Part Two »

This article is reposted with permission from the author. See the original post on Gino’s blog.

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