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Do You Need To Be a Computer Nerd to Learn To Code?

Here at TechLaunch, we’ve been working to help boost South Florida’s economy with a new infusion of tech talent. We do our best to help people — especially those who have come from other countries, those who don’t have college degrees, and those who don’t have the time and money to invest in “traditional” education options — to learn to code.

Miami is the perfect place for tech. We are a city of immigrants. We have huge numbers of smart, motivated, hard-working people who have come from other countries… many of whom don’t have traditional degrees from US universities, and are finding it hard to compete in traditional US job markets.

Tech workers earn high salaries, often reaching into the six figures. Coders work in cushy offices, or from the comfort of their own homes. Some even make money as “digital nomads” while traveling the world. To top it all off, tech companies tend to hire based on skills, not credentials — so people who don’t have traditional college degrees can compete for those jobs on a level playing field.

On paper, getting into tech seems like an obvious choice. Indeed, we are already seeing large numbers of Miamians learn to code, for all of those reasons.

But what we are also seeing is that there are many smart, motivated, hard-working people here in Miami, who are reluctant to learn to code because of misperceptions and stereotypes.

The Computer Nerd

In popular culture, the image of the “coder” is a hard-core computer nerd. There has been an epic push over the past few years to challenge those stereotypes, and bring more women, African Americans, and Latinos into tech. It actually seems to be working… at least to some extent. We’re seeing a lot more female & minority coders represented in the mainstream media. Programs like Black Girls Code are popping up around the country. Perceptions are slowly changing to be more inclusive of all demographics.

But there is still a widespread perception that to be a coder, you need to be a computer nerd. There is this image of a guy who spends all day indoors, hiding from the world, staring into a computer screen for hours on end, talking into a headset while munching on Doritos and potato chips (or mariquitas), switching between browser tabs filled with black-and-green Matrix-style code, League of Legends, and World of Warcraft. Unfortunately, this “maladjusted code hermit” image still holds many people back from getting into tech. It makes people feel that since they’re not computer nerds, they shouldn’t even try to learn to code.

computer nerd learn to code

Stereotypes & Misperceptions

Here in machismo-soaked, sun-kissed, hard-partying Miami, people don’t want to be the “computer nerd.” The culture here is fun, exciting, active, and energetic. The idea of becoming a wretched recluse holed up in a hacker hideaway is not very attractive for many macho & modish Miamians.

So we’d like to do our part to try to correct this grossly inaccurate misperception. In our experience, here at TechLaunch, these stereotypes couldn’t be further from the truth! While they might jokingly refer to themselves as “nerds” — you know, because they’re smart and they know how to code — our students tend to be radically different from the stereotypical image of the uber-geeky computer hermit.

Instead of just telling you about this, we wanted to show you. We decided to talk to a couple of our current Web Development students, to get their perspectives on the issue.


learn to code

Peter Vegliante is a former US Marine who decided to learn to code in order to provide a good life for his family, while still being able to spend time with them. He enjoys riding his motorcycle, going to the shooting range, playing video games with his son, hanging out with his family, and fixing things around his house.

TechLaunch: Have you always been a “computer guy”? Did you grow up thinking you would go into tech as a career?

Peter Vegliante: I was never a computer guy. Not even close. My knowledge of computers was turn it on, click some things, and if it doesn’t work call help desk. Growing up I wanted to be a G I Joe. Anything in the tech field was of little interest.

computer nerd learn to code

TL: What was your life like before FVI?

PV: After high school [I went straight into] the Marines, and then jumped from job to job trying to put food on the table. I found myself working in the audio/video industry. The hours were long and the money seemed good, but it wasn’t a year-round gig. So, I had to work as much as possible for nine months out of the year. During those nine months, I was almost never home, and when I did make it home it was to get clean clothes, eat and sleep. The other three months of the year there was nothing. There wasn’t a way to get ahead, and it seemed like I was still living paycheck to paycheck. I knew that I had to find another way to make a living.

TL: When did you realize you wanted to learn to code? What sparked this realization?

PV: I don’t think I ever realized that I wanted to learn code. I was having trouble finding a job that paid more than $10 an hour. And when I found out about the coding school at FVI I signed up because the VA pays for it. What got me hooked was [coding] what was supposed to be simple music boxes. I turned it into a piano. And I knew exactly how limitless coding could be. After that I was hooked and haven’t really looked back.

TL: What do you think of the stereotypes that people have about coders as geeks with tape on their glasses? Have you ever run into problems because of these stereotypes? Do they seem accurate based on your experiences so far?

computer nerd learn to code

PV: I think stereotypes in general are a problem… but as far as coders being geeks with tape on their glasses, that must be the dumbest thing I ever heard. I haven’t run into any problems yet because I don’t fit the stereotype of a coder. What I usually get is disbelief. I’m a former Marine, rifle/pistol instructor, advanced skills in Close Quarter Combat, Marine Corps Martial Arts. I have a shaved head, healthy beard and I ride a motorcycle. The last thing anyone would think I did for a living would be sitting behind a computer writing code. For the geeky coder stereotype, I couldn’t be further from it. Most of the students at FVI couldn’t be further from it. The instructors couldn’t be further from it.

computer nerd learn to code


learn to code computer nerd

When she’s not creating awesome things with code, Lilianne Cantillo (@lilycubanita on instagram) likes to hit the gym, the beach, and the fun Miami nightlife. She’s into yoga, spinning, music & dancing… and sometimes just curling up with a really good book. Even with such a full and active lifestyle, Lilianne considers coding to be her greatest passion at the moment. In her words, “It’s a great feeling when I create a project from scratch, and then see the final results!”

learn to code computer nerd

TechLaunch: Have you always be into computers? Did you grow up thinking you would go into tech as a career?

Lilianne Cantillo: La verdad no siempre estuve interesada en las computadoras. Cuando era pequeña creo que estaba mas interesada en cosas de chicas como maquillaje, fashion y diseño. Siempre estaba pintando algo. Me empezó a llamar la atención la informática, cuando me di cuenta que todas las profesiones de alguna forma u otra tenia que usar software y que ese era el trabajo del futuro!

[The truth is, I was not always interested in computers. When I was little, I think I was more interested in girly stuff like makeup, fashion and design. I was always painting something. I started paying attention to computers, when I realized that all professions in some form or another had to use software, and that that was the work of the future!]

computer nerd learn to code

TL: What was your life like before FVI, and when did you realize you wanted to learn to code?

LC: Trabajaba en hospitality alrededor de 5 años, y aunque aprendi muchas cosas y fueron buenos tiempos, creo que estaba lista para cambiar de carrera.

Yo ya tenia un background en software developer porque eso fue lo que estudie en Cuba, y sabia que hay muchas oportunidades en US si sabes programar. Se puede conseguir trabajo fácilmente y muy bien pagado. Ahi fue un momento clave en que me dije, tengo que finalmente convertirme en una desarrollada de software… pero yo llevaba mucho tiempo fuera de ese mundo.

Entonces el desafío era buscar la escuela correcta, que me enseñara los lenguajes de programación mas usados. Otro factor que también buscaba es cuanto tiempo se le dedicaba a la practica para poder convertirse en una programadora que cumpliera los standards que las empresas buscan.

Asi fue como después de una extensiva búsqueda en internet (casi especialista me convertí) decidí que FVI era el lugar perfecto para mi. Y siendo sincera contigo esa es la mejor decision que he tomado en mucho tiempo.

[I worked in hospitality for 5 years, and although I learned many things and there were good times, I think I was ready for a career change.

I already had a background in software development, because that was what I studied in Cuba, and I knew that there were many opportunities in the US if you know how to program. You can get work easily, and very well paid. There was a key moment in which I said “I have to finally become a software developer…” but I had already been away from that world for a long time.

Then the challenge was to find the right school, to teach me the most commonly used programming languages. Another factor that I was also looking for was how much time was devoted to practicing [specifically] to become a programmer that meets the standards that companies are looking for.

So it was after an extensive internet search (I almost became a specialist) that I decided that FVI [TechLaunch’s parent school] was the perfect place for me. And to be honest with you, that’s the best decision I’ve made in a long time.]

learn to code computer nerd

TL: What do you think of the stereotypes that people have about coders as geeks with tape on their glasses? Have you ever run into problems because of these stereotypes? Do they seem accurate based on your experiences so far?

LC: Si creo que existen muchos estereotipos, y en mi opinion la mitad o mas no son ciertos. A veces pienso que social media tiene mucho que ver en como se nos representa. Casi siempre somos mencionado como geeks, que aparece con espejuelos, con pocas habilidades de comunicacion con las demás personas. Y también esta el estereotipo que solos los chicos son buenos programando, algo que me parece muy gracioso, porque tengo varias amigas que trabajan de programadoras y son muy exitosas en su carrera.

La verdad no he tenido problemas por los estereotipos. Cuando uno tiene confianza en si mismo y en su habilidad para ejercer esta profesión, puedes demostrarles que están equivocados.

[I think there are many stereotypes, and in my opinion most of them are not true. Sometimes I think that social media has a lot to do with how we are represented. We are almost always depicted as geeks, who appear with glasses, with few communication skills with other people. And also this stereotype that only guys are good at programming… is something that I find very funny, because I have several female friends who work as programmers, who are very successful in their careers.

The truth is I have not had problems with stereotypes. When you have confidence in yourself and in your ability to practice this profession, you can show them that they are wrong.]

learn to code computer nerd

Here at TechLaunch, we meet a lot of coders. Just like professionals in any other field, they are a diverse and varied bunch. One thing’s for sure, though: the stereotypical “maladjusted hermit coder” has gone the way of the dinosaurs. The coders of today live full, active, fulfilling lives. Sometimes they even go outside. They just happen to also create awesome things with code, and make lots of money while doing it.

If you’re interested in learning more about getting into tech, or want to find out more about what we do, give us a call at 786-574-9511, or shoot us an email at