Coding == Blue Collar Work?

LEGO Collectible Minifigures Series 7 : Computer ProgrammerI’ve had this article in an open tab for a while now.  I heard Thompson on the radio last week talking about it, and so I finally got around to reading it.  It’s not wrong and it’s not right, either.   I don’t necessarily want to hear that CS is a blue collar job.  After all, the students I’m teaching CS to go on to big league CS and Engineering programs at some of the most selective schools in the country.   But I’m not training students for blue collar type coding work any more than my math colleagues are preparing their students to be cashiers.  They’re not done learning when they finish with me; they’re building on what they’ve learned with me, same as they’re building in their math and writing skills.

Still, I do think there are coding/programming jobs that don’t need a CS degree to do well.  Highlighting some of those jobs might remove the mystique that CS has garnered for decades, that you have to be some sort of genius (at math, at drinking Mountain Dew and staying up 24 hours straight) in order to be good at it.  And there are jobs out there (I’m ignoring the comments about outsourcing and AI, for now).

The comments are enlightening–at least the first 15 or so–in that they reveal the stereotypes, myths, and insecurities of programmers.  Here they are, in no particular order: no HS (or bootcamp) grad could code (they’re dumb); you need to be good at math (probably calculus); all the jobs are being outsourced anyway; AI will take over all the jobs in 10 years.  There’s a grain of truth in there somewhere, but it’s funny how these tropes get trotted out every time programming jobs come up.  My favorite commentary is a thread I happen to agree with, that the most important skills for programming are logic, problem solving, and abstract and critical thinking.  It’s suggested there are many ways to gain those skills: math, philosophy, and (gasp!) writing*.

I think there’s no way to know if coding is the new blue collar work, but what should be noted is that jobs that require programming and Computer Science skills are varied.  And there’s likely no one path to get to the job you ultimately want.


*yours truly got her logical/critical thinking skills through writing and teaching writing