How do I get my daughter interested in computers?

I get this question a lot, especially from Silicon Valley tech VCs. Tech execs genuinely want to get more women involved in software, but many find themselves thwarted by their very own daughters.

I think I can help.

“I sent my daughter to coding class, but she just isn’t interested.”

The first mistake is in thinking that the child should have any say in the matter. Kids don’t get to have free will, okay. If your daughter announces that she has no interest in learning algebra, would you allow her to forgo maths? Of course not.

FWIW, I learned to code at the local Boys Club (free day care for poor people). This was in the 1980s; I was six and probably hated it. Was my mother concerned about whether this was a gender-sensitive learning environment? No, we were immigrants, we took what we could get.

“My daughter wants to major in photography/journalism/basket-weaving.”

The second mistake is in allowing your child to believe that a career should be fulfilling and fun. The do-what-you-love mythology has led thousands of students to load up on debt for a degree in what amounts to a hobby.

Work isn’t fun. If work was supposed to be fun, they wouldn’t pay you to do it. Software engineering is no different. Yes, we hear about cool projects like self-driving cars and rockets to Mars, but most Silicon Valley engineers are working on boring stuff like server virtualization and load balancers. My first programming job consisted of generating test vectors for network routers. Don’t get me wrong; my current job is great. But it took many years of crap jobs to get here.

The thing I don’t understand is why people keep agitating for more women to do software in the first place. Sure, we get paid well, but so do actuaries and aircraft mechanics. And those workers don’t get put out to pasture by age 35.

More confusing still, is that the people screaming most loudly about getting girls to code are not themselves coders. Ellen Pao founded Project Include to get more women into tech, but the only engineer on her team is a dude.

The Project Include Team

Nobody becomes a software engineer because they love writing code; they become a software engineer because it allows them to build out ideas. This is a useful skill to have. Except that most software engineers aren’t realizing their own ideas. They’re getting paid to build someone else’s pet project. Software engineers are the wage labourers of the tech industry.

It’s an oft-overlooked fact that Silicon Valley doesn’t care about software engineers — We really worship the Venture Capitalists. Programming is for chumps, which is why we give 74% of software jobs to immigrants. If you’re a Venture Capitalist, the last thing you want is for your child to go into wage slavery. I think that constitutes some sort of dynastic regression.

The most important tech skill, then, isn’t computers or engineering — It’s the art of getting paid to control vast amounts of money. Then you can make programmers build out whatever dumb ideas you like. Parents who want their daughters to succeed in Silicon Valley need not worry about teaching their girls to code: Teach them about capitalism instead.

9 thoughts on “How do I get my daughter interested in computers?

  1. Probably worth mentioning that there’s a dearth of evidence suggesting that parents’ efforts have an outsized effect on their kids’ long-term outcomes. The twin and adoption research is particularly compelling.

    (See: Caplan’s Selfish Reason to Have More Kids, Harris’ The Nurture Assumption & Pinker’s The Blank Slate)

  2. Confucius said, “Find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life”. If you can find what you’re naturally passionate about, and make a career out of it, then it’s going to lead to a much happier and more fulfilled life. Having a job purely for economic expediency should only be a last resort (not to say we shouldn’t still value such a job). I think it’s a good idea to insist kids give programming a proper chance. I’m a software developer and love my job, and besides that it’s an important life skill now. On the other hand, if your child is really not taking to programming, and you have the means to provide them opportunities to explore other disciplines, then keep searching for their passion. You might just discover some natural talents elsewhere.

    1. Hi Jordan, I am curious on how your discovered your interested/love for programming? Was it love at first sight? Did you struggle a lot initially and never gave up? Also, did the school system you studied allowed you choose or skip certain subjects? Importantly, were you allowed to skip maths?

      If you were allowed to skip maths and you ended up skipping maths because you were passionate about it, then I am pretty sure you won’t be a software engineer by now.

      I was forced to studying by the system which didn’t give any choices. I ended up loving Computer Science. 🙂

  3. Jordan you seem to be Childless, we live in a Financially Connected lives where you pay for what you get. If you get one of those USELESS Degrees or Go To College at all chances are you will not get your moneys worth if you go to that BS method follow your heart when people especially younger ones change everrrrrrry minute. Why not avoid alllll of that Headache and Heartache and Get Something of USEFULLNESS…

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