The man behind some immensely popular online web development courses has turned his hand to the written word to address a new audience. In an interview with DataIQ, Rob Percival talks about how he wants to inspire professionals to take up coding and - through teachers - encourage young people to see it as a career option.
Web developer and teacher Rob Percival is already an accomplished creator of web development courses which can be accessed through the online learning marketplace udemy. Percival has created 20 to date that have been translated into five languages, with titles including The Complete Python & PostgreSQL Developer Course and The Complete Web Developer Course 2.0.
Although he only began making courses in 2015, now he is one of the highest-rated instructors on udemy. “The best way to learn coding is through online courses because it’s really nice to be able to watch a video of someone doing the thing that you’re trying to do and actually see it happening in real-time,” he told DataIQ.
However, he said that they don’t work particularly well when trying to get across softer skills, such those around career development and also why someone would want to code in the first place. Percival felt that, if he tried to suggest web development as a career choice in a video course, he would be preaching to the converted. He said: “The people who take my courses tend to be quite serious about learning to code. If you sign up to a 20- or 30-hour course, you’re pretty serious and either want to change careers or want to be become a developer.”
And so he decided to write a book, “Confident Coding,” to reach a new audience. “The book does an overall introduction,” he said. “It’s inspiring people to learn to code, [explaining] why they would want to do it and how it would benefit their career.”
Percival had professionals such as doctors, lawyers and teachers in mind when writing the book. “The target for this book is anyone at all working in any profession who might be vaguely interested in coding, but doesn’t have any solid reasons why they might want to learn it,” he explained.
One of the benefits to someone in a professional environment, including those in the C-suite, of learning to code is the ability to better connect with the “techie” people within their organisations. According to Percival, basic interactions are made so much easier with even an elementary understanding of how the systems behind websites and apps work. He said: “They can have those interactions with IT people and get more out of them and they don’t have the fear of going to them.”
Percival had spent ten years as a teacher in a secondary school before he became a web developer and felt that his former colleagues, in particular, could use his book to inspire school-age students to pursue careers in STEM subjects. He thinks that there is a lot of benefit that tech can provide in the classroom and, if teachers can learn the basics of coding and can work with bits of software, the whole teaching experience and learning experience can improve. “I very much hope that teachers will pick up this book and get a few ideas from it,” he said.
“Schools are a place where coding itself happens, but coding is an area that a lot of teachers feel deeply uncomfortable with. A teacher setting up a simple app with their students could have a really big impact on them and make the whole teaching experience better for kids,” he added.
This can only be a good thing, considering the technical skills shortage the UK is facing as a result of a lack of students studying science, technology, engineering and maths. According to a survey by the UK Commission’s Employer Skills study, 43% of vacancies for professionals working in STEM are hard to fill due to skills shortages.
He also shows his readers how to create iPhone and Android apps and finishes it off with a look at more general uses of programming. “There’s a lot of cool tricks in there that people will find to hopefully make their working days - and maybe even their social lives - smoother and more efficient,” he said.
Percival was not worried about books being a static medium and being unable to update or edit it as he would an online text. He specifically chose to cover coding languages that have not changed much in the last few years and so his instructions are likely to remain relevant for a few more to come.
The most enjoyable part of the process for him was thinking in-depth about and clearly articulating the reasons why people should learn to code. “It forced me to think quite hard. I didn’t want to just churn out the same old [reasons]: it’s good for the brain, it’s interesting, it’s fun, it’s the future,” he said. “I hope people get a lot of value out of it and they learn a bit about coding and use this to better themselves and supercharge their careers.”
Confident Coding - - Master the fundamentals of code and supercharge your career by Rob Percival is published by Kogan Page, priced £14.99.