why we can’t be replaced by 16 year olds

I mentor the programmers on a high school robotics team. There’s a range of skill levels. Some of them are completely new to programming. Some of them are really good at coding. So does that mean if someone is looking to hire a programmer, they can just hire a 16 year old? Well, not quite.

Tech skills

A teenager will take a Python course at Udacity and think he knows everything there is to know. (And I say “he” because girls tend to be more aware that there is so much out there to learn.) This means the new programmer will spend much time reinventing the wheel or “deriving” idioms.

Skill vs experience

I won’t dispute that a teenager can be a great coder. How there is more to development than coding. Solving the right problem is important. Asking the right question is important. Challenging assumptions is important. Knowing when to reuse code is important. Being able to sell your idea is important.

More reading

Peter Norvig has an excellent article titled “Teach Yourself Programming in 10 Years” which explains why the teach yourself X in 24 hours can’t hope to cover everything.

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