There's a lot of talk these days about the value of being able to code. Being able to write code is the modern day equivalent of being "handy." There was a time where the best builders, blacksmiths, etc. had a huge advantage in business because they could build something out of "nothing." All they would need is materials and time and effort and they could sell their products for money or build businesses that did this at a larger scale. Today things are much different and the value of being able to build or fix something is much less than it once was (though I think it will become more valuable in the future but that is another post).
It's just fascinating to me how people that can code can get a viable product to market for literally less than maybe a few hundred dollars. That's actually not what this post is about, though. What it's about is how it's even more fascinating how valuable skills change over time and how IMO that should shape your attitude towards your career.
When I was in high school, everyone (and my mother) was harping on how important it was to learn Spanish. People reasoned that more and more Americans were speaking the language and those that didn't speak it would be at a disadvantage. I hated Spanish. Well mostly I didn't like school, and learning a foreign language without putting in effort wasn't realistic. I ignored pretty much everyone's advice that I should care about Spanish and bullshitted my way through high school Spanish.
I can't remember one person ever saying to me how important learning how to code would be. What's funny is that the internet was huge then and getting even bigger. With hindsight, it's pretty obvious that as more commerce shifts to the internet that those who are able to build those companies will have skills that are in high demand. Ironically, I think the value of being fluent is foreign languages will continue to decrease as technology will break down language barriers over time.
To be clear, the spanish / coding anecdote is just one example, there are a ton of industries and subsequently skills that get hot and cold.
The skills that are "valued" in this world change. That rate of change is increasing and that change will create value for new skill sets. You have got to stay on top of the way things are moving if you don't want to fall behind. That doesn't mean you get a degree in whatever and then go get a job and that's your career. It means you get a degree (or not) and a job and you continue to learn and evolve as the world changes. No one knows what the future will bring, but it will be won by those that adapt the best and stay ahead of the curve.
-I'm eyeballs deep in DraftDay right now, but when things settle down I am going to get serious about improving my technical skills. I'd like to get to the point where I am proficient enough to do my own proof of concept stuff or maybe help with small bug fixes to my companies. I'd likely start here: http://37signals.com/svn/posts/3241-37signals-invests-in-the-starter-league
-The easiest way to spot trends is to figure out what the kids are doing. Trends start there. Whenever I get the chance, I ask questions to kids about what is "hot" or what they think about something.
-I was going to write something about how when I have kids someday I'm going to demand they learn how to code, but I realized that's just the kind of thinking that gets people into trouble. Things change, and even if they don't, I wouldn't force my kids to do something they were going treat like I treated high school Spanish class.
-Get in touch with me on Twitter, I try to tweet a lot but my blog updates can be sporadic. I'm @taylorcaby