We often get questions from students outside of Computer Science about how they can develop their coding skills or get into related sectors. Coding is no longer the reserve of programmers and the value of these skills are being recognised across employers in a range of different sectors. This trend is set to continue, with The World Economic Forum predicting that technological skills will be in much greater demand in 2030 as will quantitative and statistical skills. Currently, demand for workers with specialist data skills (which usually involves coding skills) has increased hugely in the past few years.
However, even if you see the value of these skills and want to learn – as a non-programmer it can be daunting. I have first-hand experience of this myself, with initial degrees in Psychology and Information/Library studies, working in libraries and now the Careers Service. I’ve seen these skills slowly becoming more valued in these sectors. Coding is something I’ve never had to do but faced with increasingly complex data reporting requests in Careers, I’ve taken the plunge to learn Python and SQL to improve my data analysis options.
In today’s blog, I’m going to cover how your existing non-coding skills can be really valuable in these areas. I hope this will make things seem a little less daunting. Look out for part two where we’ll cover how you can learn to code yourself.
Firstly - in perhaps a surprise turn for a blog about coding – I’m going to start by suggesting coding might not be the be all and end all. it’s important to note that a digital future is not one where just the ability to write code will be in demand. A whole array of digital skills will be important for many careers in the future and some of these are already in high demand. Information literacy, data literacy, collaborating virtually, creating digital content and more are just some of the digital skills you may already have developed. These will be essential both for a career pathway that involves coding, but equally essential for many other professions too.
Bath uses the Jisc digital capability framework to evaluate these kinds of skills. This can help you to reflect on what you have already, perhaps where your strengths lie or where there are gaps. You can find out about why these skills are so vital and more about the framework over on the Academic Skills blog.
If you are interested in a career pathway that involves coding or want to learn how to code for yourself – don’t forget about your existing skills. The skills you have developed during your degree or through work experience can be surprisingly transferable to coding.
Being successful in a coding-related career is not just about being able to type lines and lines of code. Analytical and problem-solving skills are essential when you are trying to solve problems. You’ll also need to be able to organise what you have done so it is easy to read, build and use.
The ability to communicate and collaborate with others is also important. Whether that is collaborating on a project, explaining what you’ve done or telling a story about what you have found. Coding can also be surprisingly creative, requiring original thinking and ideas to solve complex problems.
In addition, students from Humanities and Social Sciences particularly, have a unique set of skills needed for the future of technology and coding. The students and graduates bring an understanding of the human consequences of new technology such as AI and the moral, ethical and legal framework in relation to the future of technology. Collaboration between psychology and computer science in developing wellbeing apps is one example. Find out more in this research from the British Academy.
Working with data
Often when we get asked about coding it’s because of an interest in a career with data so I wanted to cover this explicitly. The vast majority of data roles that don’t require a Computer Science background sit in the Data Analyst category. Versus Data Scientist roles which expect a greater degree of programming experience. You can find out more about this distinction on MyFuture.
However, central to roles within data is an understanding of maths, data analysis and data visualisation. All of which you might well have developed through your education or work experience to some extent. For me, the statistical elements of my Psychology degree were invaluable for the data analysis work I already do.
If this is an area you are interested in – reflect on what you already have got to offer. Equally if you are interested in learning to code but not sure where to start, coding related to data analysis could be a useful jumping off point.
Building a network
When you are exploring something new, finding others you can approach for help and advice can be invaluable. This is true for coding too. If you are interested in a career in this area – having a chat to those already doing it is a great way to find out more. Whether it is giving you insight into how others without a computer science background have got into the sector, what programming language or skills might be the most useful for you to learn, discovering jobs you didn’t know existed or just helping you solve an error in your code – having support is invaluable.
- Connecting with people you know who have coding skills or work in areas that interest you. This could be friends or family. Or you could try connecting to Alumni on Bath Connection – especially those who perhaps don’t have a computer science background but have developed theses skills themselves
- Seek out groups. CodeNewbie is great for those new to coding Code First Girls are partnered with the University of Bath and offer courses and a support network. Bath Hacked is a local group that host hackathons to improve the city. This article has some other suggestions
- Don’t forget about networking with or researching about employers too. There are companies who value soft skills that non-computer science graduates can bring and will then train recruits with the technical skills they need. If this is something that interests you, keep an eye out for events and vacancies on MyFuture
Hopefully this has given you some ideas for how your existing skills might transfer to a digital career or one that specifically involves coding. I hope it's made things a bit less dautning. Remember that the Careers Service can help you explore career options that might need coding skills or help you plan the next steps in your career. Find out more on MyFuture
Look out for Part two coming soon which will cover how to teach yourself to code.