(Page 2 of my Programming Concepts Series)
Over the last few decades, computer programming has quickly become one of the most powerful skill sets available in the job market as a whole, the world over. It’s so ubiquitous that it might be easy to miss if you aren’t looking! Computer programmers create software required by our modern machines to help them do what they do. Programmers build the tools and help form the procedures of modern-day business, in all aspects of the enterprise. There are countless applied uses of programming in nearly every sector of the modern workforce.
Regardless of what type of job you’d like to do, I promise you that there is a computer program that can assist you with the task, or that the management requires you to use.
Among the more obvious uses of computer programming is its more traditional role in running office productivity applications in fields like Accounting, Business Management, Marketing, Law/Government, and Human Services. These have all gone from simple calculators and spreadsheets to gigantic enterprise platforms that store massive sets of data and coordinate huge projects for all the companies and governments of the modern world.
It’s in front of all of us every day as we go through our routines. So much so that many people totally take it for granted and hardly even notice the work of a computer programmer. Which, in truth, is a good thing – the better a computer program is, the less you notice it. The more that it helps you simply do what you need to do, without getting in your way, the better.
For instance, during my short time working at a grocery store I had to utilize different types of computer programs to get the job done. We used a computer system to clock in and out of work at the beginning and end of our shifts. There was a computer program that ran the cash registers in the check-out line. There was one that played the music over the sound system in the store. There was one that coordinated the intercom system with the manager’s cell phones so that any time they needed to they could page an employee or make an announcement. If they all worked as expected, we hardly even noticed they were there. They blended into our routines. It was only when they malfunctioned or didn’t do what we wanted that we actually noticed “Hey there’s a problem with that computer!”
Office work and retail stores adopted the use of computer programs quickly and we come in contact with those fairly often. Less obvious are the ways that programming has expanded to uses in more blue-collar sectors. Like Manufacturing to automate assembly lines and test products. In Agriculture to coordinate farming equipment and process food products. In Transportation and Distribution Logistics to help move us and all our products from point-A to point-B. In Academic Research, especially in the sciences, engineering and mathematics fields that help bring us all the cutting-edge advancements and discoveries that keep our society progressing forward.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg! Under each computer program that we commonly see are more ‘lower-level’ programs to help those ones do what they do. These are Application Frameworks that help programmers create code faster, and Software Platforms that programmers use to get the job done more accurately.
Under those ‘lower-level’ programs lurk the programs that interact with the machine hardware itself like Operating Systems, and so on. These are programs that don’t usually have a GUI and are only meant for other programmers to use. There are programs that coordinate internet traffic, routing it where it needs to go. Programs that run web servers so that you can get the latest Tweets and Facebook posts quickly and accurately. Programs to control our smart-phones and use the various sensors and features of the latest consumer tech. Programs that enable smart-assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, or Microsoft’s Cortana to understand you when you speak. They are all here for us, helping us, and entertaining us behind the scenes… almost completely out of sight.
With so many programs, so many apps, so many computer systems, and so many tech companies – without a doubt – there is a place in the software industry for you. Whether it’s obvious right now or not. Here’s an example. For the longest time I assumed that a higher aptitude in math was required to become a software developer. But I was sorely mistaken. Yes, it’s true that if I were to try to write the code that would run an Aircraft’s auto-pilot, or design code for a system that operates a satellite, or a system that runs in a graphing calculator… math would surely be required. However, software is used in many non-Math intensive areas as well.
For instance, an easy example of code that doesn’t depend on math skills runs on this website that you’re reading now. This site, https://wforbes.net/, runs on WordPress, written in the PHP scripting language. It’s a Content Management System (commonly abbreviated ‘CMS’), which gives people the tools to quickly set up a website and host content like articles and media on it, all without having to touch a line of code. Aside from some simple math to determine post times or something trivial the sorting of a list on the page – there is very little math needed to make this happen behind the scenes. Yet, at least 35% of ALL websites currently use WordPress! So, just because you aren’t really good at Math doesn’t mean you can’t create a great software product that 75 million websites use!
Even if you don’t want to specialize in writing code for your day job, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of different types of jobs available for you if you have at least a basic understanding of programming. These are the support roles in the technology industry that work with software developers to fine-tune, release, market, maintain, and coordinate code projects. They are the roles you can fill in the many industries I mentioned earlier in this article that work closely with specialized computer programs. It even helps quite a bit if the many different types of managers and leaders in these various sectors and industries know a bit about coding, not only so that they can better appreciate what the people that they supervise do, but to also become better at supervising them.
Beyond all of that, I hope by the time you finish studying these page you’ll be able to appreciate that learning to code can help build your logical and analytical skills. Even if you don’t work in the technology industry at all: by learning to code, you can gain an enriched set of understandings and thinking strategies which can be brought to any industry and situation in life. It can help build your critical thinking skills! Something we all need to practice everyday. We’ll explore that in the next page!