Can anyone learn how to code? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.
Yes. Of course anyone can learn to code. That’s a ridiculous question—because it’s entirely based on the idea that we have any idea what the limits of human potential are.
Before the industrial revolution, if you had asked “Can anyone learn to read?” the answer would have been a resounding no—books were expensive; reading was an activity of the elite class. And yet, over the past few centuries, the majority of the world population has become literate.
If you asked someone hundreds of years ago “Can women learn mathematics?” the majority of answers would unfortunately be no, which is obviously absurd. But even today, studies show that this cultural bias persists and can actually make women perform worse in math—and that the gender gap in performance goes away completely in countries with gender-equal cultures.
Today, you ask, “Can anyone learn to code?” With stereotypes around programmers (that they’re anti-social wunderkinds) and misconceptions around what programming is really like (that it’s more mathematical than creative), the instinct may be to say no – “No, I’m not wired that way.” But it should be clear to us that human potential is infinite when we look past perceptions—history has shown us time and time again that we’re only limited by our assumptions of what we’re capable of and our access to effective education.
That’s not to say learning to code is easy. You’re challenging yourself to embrace a brand new way of thinking and you will have moments of self-doubt and struggle. Like learning any skill worth mastering, it takes time—but it’s an obtainable goal for nearly anyone who’s willing to put in the work.
The experience of learning also won’t be the same for everyone who takes on the challenge. For example, if you want to learn something very quantitative in nature, like programming, you’re at a tremendous advantage if you’ve had years of training in that type of thinking. If you had an inspiring math teacher, studied a quantitative subject in college, got a master’s degree in computer science and went on to have analytical work experience, you’ll be starting on a better footing than someone starting from scratch on quantitative thinking. But on the other hand, a person without that experience might have advantages when it comes to the creative side of programming – designing a product or bringing a front-end to life.
In either case, I believe anyone can learn to code if they have the motivation to push through the difficulties they will certainly encounter—to get over the initial learning hump to fully understand something before moving on. You have to find the right structure for yourself, the right way for you to learn, whether that’s getting a master’s degree, going to a coding bootcamp, or teaching yourself with free resources online. It’s not about whether you can learn, but how you can learn, how you can stick with it.
What we’ve found at Flatiron School to be the most important factor in successfully learning code, regardless of how you go about it, is to have a community around you while you’re learning. To not learn alone. Think of it like learning to play an instrument: playing on your own is fun, but the real excitement—and motivation to push through the hard parts—comes from making harmony, collaborating, or improvising with others.
The internet now gives aspiring programmers unlimited access to educational content. But access to content alone isn’t enough to motivate your learning; it’s people connected through content that makes learning happen. That’s driven how we’ve built both our in-person and online programs at Flatiron School – and if you explore our independently-verified outcomes data, you’ll see that our NYC and online students, who come from very different backgrounds and learn in super different circumstances, are equally successful in learning to code and launching tech careers.
So it doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female; six or sixty; an artist or a mathematician—learning to code isn’t out of reach. If you find the right program, surround yourself with other driven individuals, and work through challenges rather than giving up, you can learn how to code.
Photo Credit: Yuri Arcurs/Getty Images