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FSB in the Media: Forbes profile of coding curriculum

May 2017

Forbes contributor Laurence Bradford published a piece profiling the coding curriculum here at the Farmer School. We're proud to be an innovator in this area and hope to provide inspiration for other schools to require coding courses in the future.

View this article on the Forbes site.

Why One University Requires All Freshmen to Take a Coding Course

Laurence Bradford

We're all accustomed to the typical assortment of core classes at universities: math, language, English 101. While the "real-world value" of core classes is often debated, one university is introducing a core class requirement that undoubtedly adds value to graduates' post-college portfolios - a coding course.

The school is Miami University's Farmer School of Business, and the decision was spurred in response to feedback from industry leaders on the skills they like to see in the graduates they hire. Specifically notable is GE CEO Jeff Immelt's announcement that all its new hires, across all departments, will be trained in coding.

Below are some of the reasons for Miami University's new core class - and why other universities might want to consider following their lead.

Coding Helps You Think Computationally

"Computational thinking" is all about logic, analysis, and problem-solving - skills that prove useful in any job, not just tech-related ones. Learning how to break down a problem into its components and solve it methodically has value that extends far beyond the computer screen.

As a business school, Farmer is invested in equipping its grads with these crucial tools of thought. “Learning a coding language can train students to think computationally to solve business problems. It’s valuable across all majors and it’s something more and more recruiters are looking for in candidates,” says Matthew Myers, dean of the Farmer School of Business.

John Benamati, professor and chair of information systems and analytics at Farmer, adds, “Even those who do not end up writing code in their jobs need to understand the data-driven environment in which companies operate. Having computational thinking ability provides a basis for this understanding - and employers know that graduates with basic computational abilities in their toolkits will be able to leverage technology in ways not even thought of yet.”

Data Is The New Black

As Benamati noted before, the companies of today are laser-focused on using data to inform their decision-making. “Data and information are at the core of how companies compete today, and it's becoming more and more critical that graduates possess at least a basic understanding of how they work," he explains.

A foundation in tech, even a basic one, gives grads a leg up on that front. "To leverage information for effective decision-making, today’s business professionals simply must be comfortable with the software and applications that make this possible," Benamati says. "The more they can do with these tools, the more value they will add to their employer’s efforts. Those who are not afraid of writing some syntax-based code are capable of delving deeper into the information and innovating with it - and that's extremely desirable to employers."

Jim Fowler, VP and CIO at GE, echoes this. "Whether you’re in financial services or in a large-scale industrial like GE, data is the new currency. Turning data into decision-making power is what makes people’s success."

Technical Skills Make Graduates Competitive

Knowing some coding sets the groundwork for learning other languages/programs later, meaning that grads who have this foundation are easier for companies to train (and promote!). Fowler says, "Coming in with Java, R, or any modern-day language will give you the ability to learn more languages. What we’ve seen in the people we’ve recruited in the last five years is that they’re able to pick up new languages in a matter of weeks. So if you have one coming out of college, you’ll be able to pivot to the right one for the job."

As Myers and Benamati noted earlier, these skills come in handy across a wide variety of roles. "Across all the functions at GE, from engineering to HR and legal, employees are writing code and developing models to solve problems," Fowler says. "That ability to deal with data coming from multiple sources - there is not one function in the company where that is not applicable. It’s a game-changer."

Ultimately, whether or not a university requires coding classes in its core, they are something that students should consider adding to their schedule if they're able to fit it in their credit load. Or, if you've already graduated, there are plenty of ways to learn to code online for free. Pursuing this knowledge is well worth it in the business world and beyond.