DATCODE bolt logo

Hey Mark, Why Do You Code?

Why Do You Code? is a weekly blog series - a new one every Tuesday - where we ask someone from the community why it is they code, and what they like about it.


Mark Henderson @emehrkay

Software Development Manager
Baltimore, MD
Favorite Language(s): Python, PHP, JavaScript

How long have you been coding?

16 years

What got you into it?

My 11th grade (I'd be in 30th grade now if that were a thing) math teacher showed us how to write little programs on our TI calculators. I quickly turned that into a way to cheat on tests by having programs for all of the theorems, and I would just punch in the variables. I then took that spirit to college where I, and about five others, were almost expelled for writing and sharing C programs to solve the weekly Physics 101 online homework problems. Then one day a friend asked if I knew how to make websites; that is when I got into the web with PHP.

What is it you like about coding?

Straight up problem solving. A lot of the work that is done in programming isn't particularly new, but how to actually solve those problems is whats variable. I get a rush when I am able to not only challenge myself, but also come up with a more efficient or new way to handle a common task. I really like writing tools for other developers to use, which is why I try to to be active on Github (in discussion forums/irc).

Has coding changed the way you look at problems and come up with solutions?

Yes. There are a few ways to solve problems with code, but the most accepted is to break the larger problem down into bite-sized chunks and go from there. That makes you think about all of the required inputs, expected results, and all of the non-happy paths that your solution could possibly take. Writing code has also helped me better understand how math works and more importantly, help my son with his math. Who knew that f(x) f of x is the same as def(x)...?

How have changes in your life and the world affected the work you do in code?

Fatherhood has shown me that I should be sharing what I know about programming with kids. My son had a short-lived interest in creating video games, and we actually created a few with the help of MIT's Scratch, and later with some Minecraft coding summer camps. Watching him struggle with constructing nested commands as a function and looping constructs, but continuing to push ahead until it finally clicked has been the most rewarding programming experience that I've had to date.

As a tech lover and a person whose main hobbies revolve around screens that glow, I understand how important technology is to the present and future. I need for our brown boys and girls to take part in the shaping of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data: today's companies are using facial recolonization algorithms that don't recognize black people to govern things like self-driving cars, or in video game systems. Our kids should not be left out, they need to be the ones directing - and at the very least, speaking up on the team when this kind of technology is created. I believe that I can give children the same joy, the same sense of accomplishment that my son had after writing his Invader Zim knockoff game some years ago. Understanding the fundamentals of programming is the new literacy, my goal is to ultimately help our kids shape this new world.

Have you joined yet? What are you waiting for?! Go to www.datcode.io to join our vibrant community of black and brown coders. (You don't have to be brown, but you gotta love us, though :)