Local Success Story
Falling sideways into coding

Industries are evolving. Everyday, technological advances are being implemented into common jobs, but there are not enough individuals to fill this void.  With this rise in technology, it is becoming more common for industry leaders and professors to ensure that computer programming is a requirement for most fields. Patrick Smith, 26, is currently a National Projects Manager for the Canada Safety Council and a professor at Algonquin College specializing in multimedia.

Smith had an affinity for computers growing up as he participated in a couple of coding-based summer camps at Carleton University when he was younger. As a teenager, he followed a different route. He decided to take Political Science at Carleton because he wasn’t able to get into their journalism program – afterwards he decided to enter journalism at Algonquin.

“The journalism program led me to the one-year Interactive Multimedia program at Algonquin,” explained Smith. “This really fleshed out my knowledge and love of code and started me down a path that I’m so thankful to have found.”

For others, he stresses the importance of getting into coding now – even if they feel like it’s too late. Smith is adamant about letting people know that getting into it is all about attitude and approach, and the knowledge that comes along with the profession comes down to time and experience – and a quick Google search or two.

As society falls deeper into the technological realm of things, he thinks that a surplus of jobs will require coding in the next few years – so it’s best to start now.

“If you’re self-employed or a freelancer, you need a website to help advertise your skills regardless of the industry,” says Smith. “Coding isn’t just restricted to the ‘traditional’ domains in which it’s always been a factor. Sure, you’ll always need knowledge of programming and coding if you’re a web developer, an app creator or a video game designer.”

What about the lesser code-intensive domains?

Smith explains that self-driving vehicles are a reality, and they will need programming. Even vehicles that are currently on the market have electronics in them that need to be in sync to work.

“We’re right in the midst of a societal transition toward coding as a core skill,” he says. “School curricula are beginning to introduce the basics at early ages – as early as the fourth grade in some cases. The shift’s well underway, which is why the best time to get into coding was a few years ago. But the next best time is now.”

Being a professor, and working in the coding profession, he has the unique experience of teaching students from all walks of life – with little to no experience. Some industry leaders and employers would like those who they hire to have working knowledge of simple coding languages like HTML5 and CSS, but they want a portfolio of previous projects – even with little education in that field.

“For a job that needs to get done quickly and efficiently, a past history of successful coding projects goes a long way,” he explains. “On the other hand, if we’re hiring for a more entry-level job a good portfolio can’t hurt. But in my eyes, what’s far more important is a demonstrated ability to learn.”

He thinks that employers aren’t looking for someone who has mastered every programming language, but those whose skills they can nurture and develop. Smith believes that more often than not, these types of entry-level openings are efficient ways of building their portfolio and leaves them in position to be competitive for more advanced or senior level positions.

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