Kim McAllister: Talking in code



Can you do it?

It’s the one skill I wish I could learn – it’s the one skill most of us should learn.

I was at ScotSoft yesterday, but just beforehand I had a meeting with a young woman who’s just graduated with an honours business degree. She’s keen to work in digital marketing but she’s worried about the technical side of such a role – would she need to understand SEO, paid search and app development? Should she do more technical courses? I reassured her she didn’t need to, at least, not at this stage, and yet I wonder if that was good advice.

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An hour into ScotSoft I then chatted to a man who’d had to learn to code in just a year, in order to do his job – he’s an environmental scientist.

ScotSoft, of course, is a tech event organised by ScotlandIS. It is chock-full of developers.

I sat in on the “Blockchain 101” track simply out of curiosity. When Dr Greig Paul uttered the words “cryptographic hashes – we all know what those are” and I was the only one who laughed, I knew I was in the company of geniuses. Because that’s how I view people who understand lines and lines of seemingly random letters, numbers and weirdly-shaped brackets.

I’ve been working with such a prodigy on my client LiberEat. Ben sits in front of three screens, one of which he’s turned portrait so it displays more lines of code. It’s fascinating to watch.

“I’m learning about Merkle Trees and I quite like ECDSA signatures,” I texted him yesterday. I got a gasping emoji face back.

It’s a whole new language isn’t it – and one we really should be teaching in schools alongside French. The war for tech talent is real – particularly in Edinburgh – and the money that’s often offered to tempt CTO’s over to rival scale-ups is jaw-dropping. I’ve already told Ben to keep a low profile please, we really don’t want to lose him.

In amongst the presentations that went completely over my non-Python-comprehending head, was Chloe Seddon, Managing Director of Accenture, making interesting points about data and the focus on a great customer experience. She admitted she is often the only woman in the room – though not yesterday, encouragingly. Polly Purvis, CEO of ScotlandIS, immediately piped up that she was very focused on working to get more girls into STEM subjects and young women into tech – the two went into a huddle immediately after the presentation.

I’d like to see that. I’d like to see more people of any description – boys, girls, non-binary – learn these skills so that Scotland can continue to punch above its weight in software development.

What do you reckon?

Other High Growth articles from Kim McAllister

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