Monday, 18 March 2013


On "coding"

"Have any of the three of you ever written any code?" asked Stephen Barclay, Member of Parliament for North-East Cambridgeshire on 13 March towards the end of the Public Accounts Committee hearing on "UK Cyber Security".

I think it was Ken McCallum, Head of Cyber Security, BIS Department who nodded and replied "yeah", implying that back when studying his mathematics degree he had once or twice instructed a computer to do something.

The question saddened me more than the answer, especially considering that the answer was met with a murmur of approval.

Coding has become big news. "Everyone needs to code" is a mantra that has grown tiring. Today I remembered what this was reminiscent of - the mass off-shoring of technology jobs. India, it was said, was full of people who could "code". By sending these low-value jobs off-shore, the UK could "move up the value chain" and keep the "design" and "architect" roles.

And yet I've met a fair few so-called "technical architects" who take pride in their ignorance at "coding". Perhaps they fear stooping down to that level.

You just can't separate coding from engineering. It's akin to asking a surgeon, "Do you cut?". Just as you'd expect a surgeon to do much more than wield a scalpel, so a software engineer needs to understand far more than how to code.

I hope soon the debate will move on, and look at the wider skills shortage. We don't need massed ranks of code-monkeys. We need engineers.

Posted by pab at 18:58 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!