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Learning to Code with Flatiron School 11/16/16

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Learning to Code Event hosted by Exceed Network at the WeWork Incubator Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Avi Flombaum, co-founder & dean of Flatiron School, opened Exceed Network’s Learning to Code event with a question: “How is it that the largest hotel group in the world, Airbnb, does not own a single hotel, and the biggest taxi company in the world, Uber, owns zero taxis? What is their commodity?” The answer, he said, is excellent code. Speaking to the diverse audience of students and entrepreneurs, Flombaum described why he believes programmers change the world on a daily basis by virtue of the code they write and why he is passionately committed to making programmer training accessible to entrepreneurs.

 Code is Changing the World

After mentioning Airbnb, Flombaum cited a tweet from Westgate Hotel group that they planned to add 25,000 new hotel rooms over the next five years. Brian Chomsky, owner of Airbnb, replied to the tweet that they too planned to add 25,000 rooms to the Airbrb portfolio, but in a single weekend. That is a staggering claim.

Flombaum then considered the accomplishments of the programmers behind Wikipedia. “Wikipedia has redefined the nature of human knowledge,” and pausing for effect, “The wealth of human knowledge is now at your fingertips, for free.”

To acquaint the audience with code at a more granular level, Flombaum shared the example of streaming video content. “The streaming video you see on Netflix is composed of data flying around your face.” The computer takes the electromagnetic waves and turns them into 0s and 1s that becomes the streaming data that is your web series.” And hinting towards the future, Flombaum marveled at applications of coding that could profoundly impact what it means to be human by editing the genes in an embryo. Referencing a recent article on  Nature.com, he explained how the CRISPR-Cas9 combines a DNA-cutting enzyme with a molecular guide that can be programmed to tell the enzyme precisely where to cut.

 Entrepreneurs Who Code

Learning to code can have essential value for aspiring entrepreneurs. “As an entrepreneur of a tech start up, being a programmer will help you understand what your developers are telling you about the features of your commodity: The website. Ultimately, knowing how to code is going to help you better manage the tech teams.” Additionally, Flombaum suggested that a basic coding background would enable entrepreneurs to more effectively interview new technical talent simply by speaking their language; and a boss who knows how to code commands greater respect.

Learning to code is not only about communicating, it is a way of thinking, suggested Flombaum. Starting a company is essentially a big problem that needs to be solved. The way to solve that problem is to break it down into smaller problems. This is the essence of coding: Programmers learn to break down big problems into smaller solvable problems.

 Old Dogs and Their New Tricks

Flombaum ended with a message to assuage the fear and hesitation he senses in many entrepreneurs when deciding to learn something new and complex. “As intimidating as it is, it is not too late to start coding. One thing I know about technology – there is no stopping it. It is just going to keep on happening faster and faster.

Understanding programming is profoundly beautiful. You can have a great job in coding, but there is also simply a great pleasure in understanding how the world around you works.”

Exceed Network’s business incubator offers individualized mentorship and support services for small businesses. Operating within WeWork’s co-working space, the incubator hosts networking events with exceptional speakers across many tech industries to provide its community of entrepreneurs insider access to best practices from successful business-minded individuals and companies.

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