“I need to learn to code,” she told me.

Strange, I thought. This woman is a good product manager at a global tech company. “Why?” I said.

“I just feel like I need to. Peer pressure, I guess.“

I’d heard this before. Coding is a lucrative career path these days, and the ease of finding low-cost online training has lowed the barrier of entry.

But coding isn’t for everyone. It has the same ability to make you miserable as any other career path that doesn’t suit your interests.

“Here’s the thing,” I said. “Coding is just an abstraction for solving the real problems: People Problems.”

Long ago, we found that it wasn’t possible to sit down with every person, face-to-face, and ask, “what can I help you with?” Human hours became too expensive, and the problems became too large and needed too much math. So we put our heads together and built computers. And with computers came the ability to do complicated math that helped a lot of people with their problems. And the humans thought: wow, this is less costly than hiring a human to sit with me and solve these problems.

But then we discovered that those computers were difficult to use, so some other humans thought, “what if we added a dash of color?” And so, the field of User Experience came along; suddenly, humans were delighted with their computers.

And as we know (but usually forget): it’s all a miraculous illusion. The digital user experience is an illusion built to make you feel like there’s an empathetic human sitting in front of you, asking, “how can I help you?” It’s why there’s an entire industry dedicated to building digital personal assistants that sit on our countertop and creepily listen to our conversations all day.

Solve People Problems first. The most significant user experience of all is the 1-to-1, human interaction. But if too many people need you to solve their problem, then consider writing code. And if you do it well, people might even fall in love.

“I like that,” she said. “Thanks.”

Happy problem-solving.