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This seasoned technologist doesn’t want kids to learn coding too early

Instead, Sumit Gupta an alumnus of Apeejay Panchsheel Park and CTO at Spine Media says, kids must be encouraged to think critically and taught about how technology works, so they can understand the realm of possibility and come up with exciting innovations

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With close to 30 years’ of experience in various technology-related roles, Sumit has founded and co-founded several startups, and has advised others on technical, operational, as well as business models. He specialises in architecting massive-scale web applications, creating and managing engineering organisations, global vendor management etc. He also used to write a humour column for PCQuest and has created several unique products. For instance, Tarantula, the world’s first WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) web authoring tool with pixel-level layout control, written almost 20 years ago, and AudioManage, written in 2005, which revolutionised audio management from home-users to radio stations. In a candid interview, Sumit talks about his journey, explains why being passionate and persistent is critical for a budding coder, gives his two cents on how effective it is to learn coding online, and more. Edited excerpts: 

How did you develop an interest in computers?  

Computers caught my fancy from early on. Apeejay’s school lab had computers called Color Genie. I was in class 8 and the year was 1987 when I started making basic computer games. There were not many computers in the lab, so in order to use the time to the fullest,  I used to write the programme on a piece of paper at home and run it on school computers’ whenever I got an opportunity. 

What’s your advice to budding coders?

A coder has to be passionate and persistent. You have to be passionate not just about what you want to achieve, but about the process of achieving it. Programme development is complex and has many challenges. It can be frustrating to get everything to work properly, but that doesn’t mean you quit. Importantly, don’t learn coding just because everyone around you is doing so as it will backfire in the long run. I also believe that to make students interested in coding or programming they should first be encouraged to do something that gives graphical output.

Has coding become a life skill?

It’s obvious that coding is increasingly being taught in schools, and it’s become a desirable skill. Today, the market is awash with innumerable apps, so the ability to build apps is a major plus point in your resume. There are coding platforms which claim that even 5-year-olds can learn coding. Yes, they can, but should they? The most important aspect of computer science is logical thinking. It is all about how you break down a problem into smaller parts, and make it more manageable. Teaching problem solving, critical thinking and analytical reasoning is more important than teaching coding. This is what you call life skills which can be used in any career. However, as technology gets more and more entrenched in our lives, it’s important to teach kids how technology works, especially the emerging ones such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, Internet of Things (IoT), and automation. This will help them understand the realm of possibility and come up with exciting innovations. Little kids should be given time to figure out what their interests are. They shouldn’t be thrust into coding.

Is learning coding or programming online effective?

Yes, provided you have the right kind of educational or professional background and the aptitude and discipline needed to self-study. It will make learning easier. There are so many free online resources available and the best thing about them is that you can learn at your own pace. However, to expect that a few month course will make you a pro is living in a fool’s paradise. For instance, I did a 3-month course on Data Science. It was a descent course, but nothing earth-shattering. Even if I hadn’t done this course, I wouldn’t have missed out on anything. 

Dheeraj Sharma is Asst. Editor (Newsroom). He covers events, webinars, conducts interviews and brings you exciting news snippets. He has over 10 years' of experience in prominent media organizations. He takes pleasure in the small things in life and believes a healthy work-life balance is key to happiness. You can reach him at [email protected]

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