Skip to main content

"Just Learn to Code" Isn't a Real Solution

Last week, I saw a video on Instagram about the WGA strike that stuck with me. I unfortunately don’t remember who posted it, but he has worked as a TV writer for decades and currently writes for a popular Netflix show. It was posted by Michael Jamin, who has worked as a TV writer and producer since the mid 90s. His video was a response to a comment that basically said it was unreasonable for writers who only worked part of the year to expect health insurance. His response was pretty simple: he used to work 10 or 11 months out of the year and had no issues getting health insurance, but now he can only get on the one show so he’s only actually working as a TV writer about 3 months. This means he doesn’t qualify for insurance through his employer. He said the industry has turned his career into part-time work and finished the video explaining he has a book coming out and travels for speaking engagements.

I went to read the comments, which is always a mistake on Instagram, and one especially bothered me. The commentor asked what the writer was doing the rest of the year when he’s only working three months out of the year, then told him to just learn to code instead of complaining. First, he said in the video what else he does to make money. Second, telling people to learn to code because it pays well just isn’t a real solution.

There should be room for people to make a living without having to chase high-paying tech jobs. TV writers do valuable work; they create art that entertains millions of people. Why should we tell these people who do that work that they love to abandon it for a programming job they don’t care about? Setting aside the big tech jobs that actively make the world worse for a multitude of reasons, there are a lot of mundane, bordering on pointless programming jobs. Is it really better to tell someone they should give up their writing career to work on semi-functioning insurance software? Or they should work as a contractor doing QA for some CMS nobody uses?

I don’t think so. People who do good work should get paid a real living to do it, not told they should trade their job that doesn’t pay enough because of corporate greed for another one they’re not interested in that pays better because it fuels corporate greed faster. I like programming jobs, because I like programming and it’s great for me that I can make money doing something I’m good at and enjoy. I want other people who are good at other things to be able to do those things for a living instead of being told to do something else.