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JACOB STORDAHL

You should learn art, not computer science

Published June 06, 2022


As a self-taught web developer with a Bachelors degree, I find myself having a different perspective than a lot of more traditionally educated software engineers. My bachelors program was barely technical in terms of programming; it was a Digital Media Arts program after all. I mostly built static HTML/CSS websites, wrote simple programs to control servos and solenoids with an Arduino, or used some open source code to embed video into sculptures with a Raspberry Pi. However, what the program lacked in technical software engineering content, it vastly made up for with the most important skill I use in my day to day work as a Software Engineer: creative problem solving. I'm a firm believer that no amount of Academic CS knowledge can truly prepare you for the reality of building software in the real world, especially for the web.

Building software for the web is a truly chaotic nightmare, and if my art school education taught me anything, it was how to tame chaos through creative & collaborative problem solving. Often, I harken back to pouring molten iron with my class mates and how that experience mirrors pushing a hot-fix to production on a Friday afternoon. Both of these tasks really on the similar fundamentals: clear communication, confidence in your systems, and knowledge of your craft, to name a few.

In my college art studio, we would often say that technical skill is not what makes someone a good artist. The most important characteristic for an aspiring artist is a passion and excitement for the work they are producing. If you are excited about working towards your big picture goals, you can hone your craft along the way. I often find that the same applies to software development: admittedly, I don't know how to use every Javascript array method from memory. However, thanks to my art education, I do know how to understand high level goals and am excited to solve the problems that stand in the way of reaching them.