Magazine article Management Today

Energy: Digital Idiot Abroad

Magazine article Management Today

Energy: Digital Idiot Abroad

Article excerpt

To help programmers and managers speak the same language, Silicon Roundabout's Decoded promises to teach anybody to code a website or app in a day. Analogue throwback matthew gwyther went along to see if it was really possible.

In the land of the digitally challenged I'm right up there with Cro- Magnon man. Back in 1985 I was quite happy with my Amstrad 8256 but lost the plot not long afterwards. When my computer 'says no', I rarely have the ability to respond with anything more than a panicked squeak. I have the MT Towers IT helpdesk first on my speed-dial and if they gave airmiles for each hour of assistance they dispense I'd be spending every weekend in Nassau.

So when an invitation came from Decoded for an MT member to learn how to code and build a website in a day, every finger in the office naturally pointed to Mr Web Minus 0.8 - the editor.

Led by Kathryn Parsons, a Veuve Cliquot businesswoman of the year award winner and MT 35 Under 35er, Decoded tries to soothe that most painful of the tech world's prob- lems: the fundamental disconnect between the 'specialist programmers' who build the digital world with code and the management that commissions sites and apps but can't understand the language they are made from. Even tech behemoths such as Google, eBay and Microsoft are clients and have sent managers on the course at pounds 750 a pop.

The courses take place, inevitably, near Shoreditch in a post-industrial building with a pale hardwood floor and white walls. Dinky Macbook Airs abound and the Wi-Fi password is 'hello universe'. Which says it all really.

Our teachers were Susan (main picture), an American with a PhD in bio- engineering and links to Imperial College, and Felix Cohen, who divides his time between digital consultancy and his Shoreditch cocktails business, the Manhattans Project. Neither arrived by skateboard.

Our pupil group was an interesting mix. There were the Etonian twins Thaddeus and McCoy, a cool duo who had just completed their GCSEs. There were a brace of trendy design types from Tommy Hilfiger in Amsterdam. Another guy, Kevin from Kuala Lumpur (with me, top left), was on holiday in London and preferred a day coding to one spent in the queue at Madame Tussauds. Then there was the amazingly nice Queen of Silicon Roundabout, ex-boss of Facebook in EMEA and now the UK business ambassador for the digital industries, Joanna Shields. And there was Dumb Boy - me.

We started off with a brisk stroll through the history of the web: Tim Berners-Lee, the birth of html (hypertext markup language), CSS (cascading style sheets) and the 1995 arrival of JavaScript. So far so good. I like a bit of history.

Then we learned the nature of programming - the interaction between functions (blocks of code that can be run on demand) + variables (used to store data within our code) + logic (how we define the decisions that our programme makes). I sort of got this.

I was just about keeping up but when it came to actually trying to write lines of code down, the fear descended. Why always a semicolon at the end of code lines? What is it with those < and > brackets that have to surround each little code nugget? And Clairaut's formula?

But I didn't panic and Felix kept things bowling along with his tech jokes, most of which went straight over my head while getting knowing smiles from my fellow pupils. Examples were: 'There are only two types of people, those who can extrapolate from incomplete data' and 'There are 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don't. …

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