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Why learn to code no matter your age

Hi! I'm Alicia Ngomo, Business Strategy Principal and AI Lead at Accenture UK. I work helping businesses disrupt themselves by combining design thinking, new technologies, and data into actionable transformation strategies. In 15+ years of experience, I have supported 25 clients across different industries and 9 countries. I'm passionate about dig...

Why learn to code no matter your age
Featuring graduate Alicia Ngomo Other in Accenture More about Alicia
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In a world increasingly digitalized, coding is the language of the future.

This summer, I embarked on a 9-week coding Bootcamp with Le Wagon (www.lewagon.com) to learn the ins and outs of full-stack development. In 9 weeks, I learned enough of Ruby on Rails, Javascript, SQL, HTML and CSS to be able to build the front and back-end of web-based applications. I built a copy-cat of AirBnb, developed a marketplace for beauty services (www.getpamper.me), and art-renting site (arthub-aja-heroku.com) programmed a chat-bot-like application, created an app to manage tasks and a few more!

So why I decided to do this now, and what did I learn?

After nearly a decade of working in digital transformation and strategizing with clients about the best way to move their businesses to the digital age, I wanted to walk the talk. Not only understand how it is done but to have the first-hand experience of bringing digital propositions to life. In the words of Einstein: “the only source of knowledge is experience”! :)

On my work, I have repeatedly noticed a few blockers to introducing innovation into established businesses:

1) Lack of understanding by senior executives
of what #digital really is. Senior executives in all sorts of companies make decisions on digital journeys, agree to change programs and evaluate the choice between different technology investments, all fundamental and profoundly transformative decisions for their businesses. However, many have a significant lack of understanding of what digital really means. What do we mean by being a digital business? What does it entail for their organizations? What capabilities are needed? How do their management and the culture need to change to transform into a digital business?

What did coding teach me?
The Bootcamp is a very tangible way to understand what digital is. In 9 weeks, I coded APIs, developed UIs, manipulated databases in SQL, configured a cloud server to host my digital products, coded back-end programs to respond to queries and instructions and execute tasks… all this in a scrum set-up, working with agile ways of working.

Building a digital product from design through to production provides you with a different perspective on how to approach a digital project and how to structure it.

I have spent lots of time talking to my clients about all these terms before. Now, besides understanding them, I know what building them entails. Building a digital product from design through to production provides you with a different perspective on how to approach a digital project and how to structure it. Listening to the user, designing the user experience, coding your design, testing your code and releasing it to the world for feedback is the closest you can get to tangibly understanding the nature of digital business.

2) Agile has become a commodity word.
Constant innovation is dependent on the effective implementation of agile ways of working and very linked to rapid prototyping. While agile has become a common term in most companies, the practical understanding of working following an iterative, incremental and flexible very much lacks at all levels of the business organization, especially at senior levels.

Waterfall methodologies disguised as agile or agile methodologies not appropriately implemented are quite standard.

With the speed of innovation increasing, successful companies need to be able to develop MVPs of ideas rapidly and test them with clients regularly, then further refine them or discard them based on feedback received. Agility is a must.

The degree of understanding of agile methodologies that one gains through working in a small team and building a digital product goes beyond any agile training I have previously had or projects that I have been involved in as an advisor.

What did coding teach me?
During the Bootcamp, you build actual digital products following a scrum framework. The degree of understanding of agile methodologies that one gains through working in a small team and building a digital product goes beyond any agile training I have previously had or projects that I have been involved in as an advisor. It really hones into the concepts of minimum value proposition (MVP), iterative development, user stories, features, value prioritization, failing fast, prototyping…

3) Business and IT are still disjointed.
There is a great benefit to be gained from business and tech, understanding each other, and working closely together. When it comes to digital technologies, this symbiosis is not a choice but a must.

I owe a lot in my career success to being able to connect and translate business to IT effectively and vice-versa, firstly around big back-office technology, ERPs, and afterward in the digital technology world.

What did coding teach me?
My understanding of the role of developers, test analysts, UX designers, network engineers etc…is a lot more tangible now. I have played some of the roles as part of developing products. Having skills on both sides of the fence makes me a far more efficient advisor on digital projects.

4) Designing for the digital customer.
To design businesses and propositions around customers needs in the digital world, and more importantly, to move existing businesses to the New (as Accenture terms it), the ultimate focus needs to be in the customer experience.

While challengers in most industries, including banking, have made a relentless focus on delighting customers their source of competitive advantage, the incumbents have still some way to go.

Despite the constant mentions to user-centricity, many times, user-focus gives in to technical constraints (e.g., legacy technology) or other cost-considerations.

What did coding teach me?
The start of any digital proposition is the customer, design and development revolve around the customer need and target experience, and the customer is a vital part of the design with user stories translating into features that are prioritized with a constant lens of higher value to the customer. See some of my articles on #designthinking

The Bootcamp has provided me with a new set of skills and a valuable experience to best help corporate businesses understand and navigate their digital journeys.

The Bootcamp has provided me with a new set of skills and a valuable experience to best help corporate businesses understand and navigate their digital journeys. It has also provided me with a set of tools that I can use to develop my own digital ideas and support nascent businesses and #start-ups.

What next? 

Continue to learn in this vast new area! :)

A coding Bootcamp is certainly only the beginning.

Some people would argue that with the advent of AI knowing how to code will become obsolete. Soon all the coding will be done by machines that will program other machines. And it is probably true.

However, I believe that for now, there is still a lot to be gained by understanding how digital products are made and how the required features translate into code.

Even in the future, understanding coding will be useful to allow us to better provide ‘coding robots’ with the right requirements and testing specifications and to review what they have done.

In a world increasingly digitalized, coding is the language of the future. A worthwhile investment for professionals in digital technologies.

#Agile #CodingBootcamp #Coding #DesignThinking #learntocode #DigitalTransformation 

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