I never imagined I’d find similarities in my experiences of moving to a foreign country and learning to code, but when I reflect on the two, they’re impossible to overlook.
A native of Zaragoza, Spain, I moved to Istanbul in 2013, and like any stranger-in-a-strange-land, I’ve had my share of clichéd ups-and-downs. I’ve also enjoyed the feeling of independence and new perspective that comes from being completely outside one’s own environment.
At about the same time, I first started learning to code. As designers, we’re told that to remain current, we need to master (or at least dabble) in code so that we can have more control over how our designs are expressed. For some designers, this means being able to code well enough to demonstrate how they imagine an interface will behave; for others, this means implementing final front-end code. (Back-end is a whole different animal!)
The necessity of a designer-coder is somewhat of a debated issue within 4xN. When almost all of our work touches something digital, we can’t deny the benefit of being able to tweak a CSS or quickly show a team of stakeholders what something could look like live, but one of the questions we ask is: Are we creating an expectation that designers should be able to implement a design from beginning to end? Is it beneficial to the client, the project and the designer to put that much of the process into one person’s hands? Or is this actually the most efficient way for an agile team to work? This isn’t a question we have come to consensus on, or even one I’ve concluded on my own.
Personally, I’ve found that learning to code mirrors the best and worst aspects of living in a new country: the potential of great reward and the inevitability of extreme frustration. Challenges that test your self confidence and force you to keep working, even when you want nothing more than to throw your laptop across the room. It’s learning a new language and the rules of a new culture, usually by trial and error. You can’t ignore the growth that flows from such an experience, but you also can’t ignore that it’s not always a painless process.
At the end, whether you decide to learn to code depends on your own views and goals, the kind of team you want to join, and even larger shifts in the industry. So code or don’t code, move away or stay at home, just keep learning and keep traveling, no matter what.