Writing the future – in code

30th October, 2015

“No going back now.”

This was the theme of this year’s Telstra Digital Summit which brought together over 1000 business leaders and digital practitioners to unlock the opportunities of business and technology.

Every touchpoint of our lives is shifting with the ubiquity of digital technologies. Not only are traditional activities transitioning to online platforms, we’re seeing entirely new products and services built in the digital economy. There really is no going back now – the pace is only getting fiercer.

I was lucky enough to attend and was inspired to hear from some of the brightest minds in digital and technology.

Robert Scoble, Silicon Valley futurist, and genius-about-town in all things tech delivered a mind-blowing demonstration of Oculus; the next innovation to completely disrupt the entertainment industry and deliver cinematic reality. (Read more about it here and be mind-blown yourself.)

Uber’s Australia and New Zealand General Manager, David Rohrsheim reinforced how digitising the user experience for travellers has disrupted the taxi industry. What’s next for Uber? UberPool, which has taken off in San Francisco, will launch soon in Australia.

The language of coding

But perhaps the most poignant message of the day came from the CEO of Decoded, Kathryn Parsons. Not a natural technology enthusiast, Kathryn was always passionate about using language to open the gate way to understanding a world and a culture. After studying French, Japanese, Latin, Mandarin and classics at Cambridge, she set up her own business with a product development and innovation company. It was there that Kathryn began to understand that technology was simply another language for her to break down in order to understand its world and culture. She got hooked on pushing the limits of what was digitally possible. With her passion for language, and her expertise in business, she hit an idea that has now exploded into a global phenomenon: Code in a Day.

“My life changed over a 30-minute conversation with Steve Henry, a pioneer in the creative industries and now my cofounder,” said Kathryn. “We talked about code — what was this mysterious language, this dark art, which only super-geniuses could master? We marvelled at the levels of fear and digital illiteracy in the professional world. We wanted to learn in a single day — and prove that anyone and everyone could learn these skills and emerge digitally enlightened. Decoded was born, and that 30 minutes changed my life – I could feel it as I walked out. I had fallen down the rabbit hole.”

Women in tech

What was most fascinating about her presentation was the research she explored that looked at the men vs. women who had learnt to code. Despite the stereotype, there was no evidence from her research to demonstrate that men had more of an aptitude for maths, technology or skills to learn how to code. In fact, 50 percent of the company’s clientele are women, and it didn’t take women any longer to learn to code or complete the course.

Kathryn is now on a life mission to break down barriers women have in the technology industry and wants the world to learn to code in a day.

“Coding is about thinking logically, problem-solving, collaborating, and innovating,” she said. “In what world are these not female skills? Yet I often hear women say things like ‘My brain doesn’t work that way’ or ‘I’m useless at technology’. Don’t just opt in to technology – own it.”

Technology has had an incredible impact on every part of our lives. The Internet of Things, combined with the explosion of mobile, and progress of artificial intelligence only illustrates that our thirst for technology is getting stronger.

Statistics tell us that we spend 177 minutes looking at our phones every day. I’m one of those people. But learning the back end of technology, or understanding how to create software, mobile applications and websites has never crossed my mind. The minute I shifted my perception of coding from an unknown concept of “computer programming” to learning the language of what is probably the most understood culture of the world, well…sign me up.

To watch the full replay of the Telstra Digital Summit, click here.