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Do you need to be “nerdy” to be a programmer?

Do you need to be “nerdy” to be a programmer?

People from all backgrounds are now considering tech as a career – it’s future-proof, often very flexible and undoubtedly exciting. But what if you’re not sure that you would fit in?

“The nerd” – that one friend, or family member, or TV show character who spends a lot of time on their computer hacking, typing really fast and barely ever touching a mouse. They use words like “server”, they aced maths with no effort, they have a desktop computer with a glass window on the side and they can fix every IT issue in a split second. If you had to place your bet on someone becoming the next tech genius, you would likely choose “the nerd”.

Is this a silly caricature, or is it accurate to the types of people that make it big in tech? If you don’t know all the computer lingo, don’t like maths, and actually enjoy extroverted activities, does that mean you should look elsewhere?

As a successful software developer, programming trainer and self-proclaimed non-nerd I will share my honest opinion on these questions.


Does a programmer need a degree in Computer Science or Software Engineering?

Short answer: No.

A degree can definitely make a huge difference – I went to university for Computer Science and it gave me a very deep and comprehensive understanding of computers and programming. However, I also have experience working in different types of tech companies alongside colleagues who did not have degrees in relevant subjects, or indeed any degree at all. Working in the tech industry provides knowledge that is more directly useful for working in that industry. Makes sense, right?

Some companies only consider applicants who have a relevant degree, but definitely not most companies. Tech is a progressive sector in which employers mostly care about your ability – which often comes from experience – rather than formal education.

What about bootcamps? A bootcamp is a short-term course, usually between 3-6 months, which focuses on the specific skills needed to get started as a software developer. So you learn specific programming languages and practical skills, with less theory and little- to-no maths. If committing the years required for a degree seems daunting, consider a bootcamp! If you go with one that has a good reputation, it will take a lot less time and money than a degree, and you are probably going to be able to get a job at the end. Our Full-Stack Track is an example of a bootcamp with a great reputation!

Maths are not part of the job of the average software developer

Does a programmer need to be amazing at maths?

Short answer: No. (but you need to have problem solving skills, which is slightly different.)

I don’t really like maths very much. I did well in maths at school, but didn’t really enjoy it. I do however enjoy logical challenges, such as puzzle games, learning foreign languages, Wordle, even sewing! In practice, maths are not part of the job of the average software developer. There are some exceptions, such as artificial intelligence, however those jobs are rarely entry level.

A software developer does need to be good at solving problems. That means being faced with a challenge which has set rules and figuring out a solution. Often you have to consider multiple abstract and complicated factors at once. However, you don’t have to be perfect – every person gets confused, frustrated or stuck when doing programming and it’s considered normal.

The best way to see if coding is for you is to try it out

Does a programmer need to have a life-long interest in computers?

Short answer: No.

Being interested in computers means…that you’re interested in computers. Often that means playing video games or being intrigued by the latest gadgets, but if that’s not your thing, you shouldn’t worry; programming doesn’t have much to do with games and gadgets unless your work is specifically related to those things.

Whether or not you’re “tech savvy” or interested in computer-y things, the best way to see if coding is for you is to try it out. You could visit a free coding education website such as Codecademy, or come to one of our free coding tasters where you’ll be guided by an experienced trainer – the sessions are open to anyone anywhere who wants to try coding!


Does a programmer need to be introverted or shy?

Short answer: No.

No! There is space for all types of personalities in tech. There are many extroverted people who are very successful. Being extroverted may give you an advantage – as with any job, having people skills can help you collaborate effectively with others. However, tech is a sector where introverted traits are better accommodated for – usually tech teams are less formal and have more clearly set social expectations. For example, you will rarely find a tech team with a dress code, and many teams aim to have as few meetings as possible.

I would personally recommend tech to anyone extroverted or introverted – I consider myself to be extroverted but I enjoy the open-mindedness and relaxed atmosphere of tech, where quirks, unusual interests and silly humour are often embraced more than in a usual office job.


So, is programming just for “nerds”?

Absolutely not! If you have a thing for solving problems and you’re looking for a new career, give it a go! Try out coding at a free iO Academy taster session or, if you’re already keen, you can even apply for the Full Stack Track coding bootcamp, which I teach alongside other trainers – some nerdy, some less so!

Further Reading