Not Technical? Not a Problem: Learning to Code Made Easy
Whether you’re a product manager struggling to communicate with your development team or an ex-investment banker looking for a new gig in tech, you’re bound to run into the same problem. If you don’t already know how to speak the language, you feel helpless.
It’s not just that you don’t know how to code—it’s that the mere idea of learning anything about it seems intimidating. You feel like every engineer has been hacking the Pentagon and coding databases since birth, and that if you’re not technical, it’s too late for you.
Chris Castiglione wants to change that.
The developer and General Assembly (GA) teacher is on a mission to change your mind about learning to code with his course, Programming For Non-Programmers. And it’s working—the course is one of General Assembly’s most popular offerings.
“I tried to teach myself to code with books and online courses,” explains Erin Bream, a former product manager at a tech startup in San Francisco. “I knew I needed to learn but never had any success until I took this course.”
What inspired Castiglione to turn his skills into a teaching career? He developed his own curriculum for teaching basic programming to non-engineers after getting frustrated with his inability to communicate with clients. He was working for non-profits in Washington, DC, where he watched donors give money to technical projects, only to have their funds wasted through haphazard allocations. “I thought if we could just communicate better, we could be more educated about our technical choices. I saw it as an opportunity to save money and save lives,” Castiglione explains.
And so a class was born. The finely tuned curriculum (Castiglione estimates he’s now taught the course over 60 times) is designed to ease the un-technical into the world of computer science. The full course is 16 hours, but you can choose to enroll in any of the sections—Fundamentals, Front-end Web Development, Back-end, SQL, and APIs—for about $150 per section.
“You don’t need to start at the top of the funnel and do everything,” Castiglione explains, emphasizing that understanding programming is less about coding for coding’s sake. Instead, he encourages his students to be thoughtful, to test their ideas, and to talk to each other. And he gives them the language to have those conversations.
Think of learning to code like learning a foreign language. If you’re going to vacation in Paris, you don’t need to be able to pen the next great French novel, you just need to be able to order “un café” and not drive the barista crazy.
It’s the same with programming. Castiglione says many of his students are professionals who work in digital already. They are in product management, marketing, or finance roles and want to be able to communicate better with their technical teams.
Even if you can’t join a live class, Castiglione’s website is full of great resources for non-programmers looking to get their feet wet on the technical side. His plain-language step-by-step posts range from how to set up a domain with GoDaddy to picking the right app for wireframing.
So, if you’ve been dragging your feet on learning to code, now’s the time to get them wet in the world of programming. Throw out those tired notions that you’re “just not technical,” because thanks to Castiglione and GA, learning to code is well within your reach.
If you’re in New York City, the next Programming for Non-Programmers class is the weekend of June 28. Secure your spot here. If you're in San Francisco and Los Angeles, keep your eyes peeled for a class coming to you later this summer.
Photo of man on computer courtesy of Shutterstock.
Anneke is a founding executive and leads the business side of Reserve, one of Fast Company's Most Innovative companies of 2016. She joined Reserve from the Google Creative Lab where she led teams building the future of tech. An advisor to NPR and a startup veteran, she is an experienced entrepreneur and storyteller who speaks and writes on topics related to technology and culture. She lives in Brooklyn and can be found online at @annekejong.More from this Author