I had a significant advantage coming to CC. I could code. I started writing computer code in elementary school. In high school, I took four years of C++, a powerful programming language. Since graduating from CC in 2005, I’ve started two successful technology companies and currently I’m on my third one.
When I’m at cocktail parties I’m often asked about my college major. When I answer “poli sci,” I often get a blank stare and an expression that conveys, “How did you get where you are with that degree?” My CC education was critical to my success, but it didn’t provide me with the foundation needed to produce digital content.
We often hear about a digital divide between generations. But even within the digital native Millennial Generation there is a great divide between those who know how to consume content and those who know how to produce content.
The language of the 21st century is data: Statistics, coding, and modeling are the digital equivalent of nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Too few CC students graduate with the ability to produce content in this new language and it leaves them scrambling and feeling functionally illiterate. Whether they are looking for a job, a great internship, or a top grad school, the ability to produce relevant 21st century content is often the difference in getting that first break.
The college is reimagining Half Block with a focus on providing on-ramps to digital content production. This process began last January when the college launched a financial-planning class. This class had incredible demand. Future classes will focus on “demystifying web programming” or figuring out the differences between “lies, damn lies, and statistics.” The goal isn’t to create engineers, but rather to expand the range of opportunities open to all CC students.
Since I started learning how to code 20+ years ago, to paraphrase venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, “Software has eaten the world.” It has also become radically easier to create code. No longer is coding solely the domain of engineers and math majors, but rather it can be a tool that English, art, and sociology majors use to interact with the world.
Professionally, few things have given me a greater edge than the ability to blend a liberal arts education with a technical background. CC’s new approach to Half Block will begin to give students the tools to be effective leaders, communicators, and contributors as citizens of the 21st century.
Greg Putnam ’05, second from left above, is a technology entrepreneur based in San Francisco.