Editor's note: this is a guest post by Catt Small, who is speaking at Future of Web Design NYC this November. All artwork is also hers!
It’s a great time to work in technology. More people than ever believe in the potential of code. But in a world seemingly obsessed with commits and pull requests, how can we highlight the creativity and artistry in programming?
It’s no secret we’re in a historic tech boom, and people are flooding the tech world to find high-paying, high quality jobs. Groups such as Black Girls Code, Girl Develop it, Women Who Code, and tons more encourage marginalized people to grab programming jobs by the horns and pull in great salaries, free food, gym memberships, standing desks, and whatever else they need to keep pushing code.
The tech scene is slowly getting more diverse, and with diversity will come new and different viewpoints. People from all backgrounds tune in to watch tech product announcements and line up at stores for new technology. More marginalized people are utilizing technology to solve common problems in their communities and providing much-needed diversity of thought at high-powered companies that reach millions of users per day.
Unfortunately many still think programming is not creative. I have heard programmers say they’re not the “creative type” despite solving problems using code every day. I have also met artists who use code to express their ideas yet do not identify as programmers. Why does this happen? Let’s examine two important factors when it comes to how we think about programming: education and culture.
Programming education can be rigid. Many say tech is a meritocracy, but people often don’t have equal access to resources. Young people in many communities don’t have access to computers until they become part of the curriculum at school. Women are encouraged to learn to code but often don’t receive enough support or mentorship.
Getting a computer science degree at college is an option for some, but many programming classes are structured as lectures and don’t cater to different learning styles. Working my way through school, I often lagged behind when professors didn't allow students to practice during class.
People who dislike common teaching methods or can't afford classes resort to tutorials, but these aren’t for everyone either. Some people resort to learning by hacking apart more experienced programmers' projects and googling until things start to make sense. However, like me, many of those people never seem to feel like real “educated” programmers.