by Sundararaja N. Valiyapan | Photo Credits: Sundararaja N. Valiyapan | 23 March 2014
What do Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama and our interviewee have in common? They all want you to learn how to program.
We interviewed Mr John Huen, founder of Koding Kingdom and an HKU alum, who is trying to bring coding education to even more people in Hong Kong.
Computer programming in the past decade has made a shift from an emerging field into an essential one. The most obvious benefit of learning to program a computer is landing a job.
But not just any job as a computer programmer makes an average of 200,000 HKD a year. The benefits of programming knowledge is not just confined to programmers, as even some Harvard MBAs found the skill to be indispensable.
Some of the advantages they cited include writing software and in effect saving costs; being able to communicate with developers with ease and allowing them to make informed decisions on technical hires. It should be noted that those MBAs reaped all the pre-mentioned benefits from a single rigorous introductory computer science course, CS50 at Harvard.
Not just MBAs
The successful people you see in the video, Jobs, Gates and Obama are convinced that computer science should be learned by everyone, at least the basics of it.
That’s because computer science develops your computational and critical thinking skills. It teaches logic, creativity and technology. This fundamental knowledge is needed to prepare yourself for the 21st century, regardless of your field of study or occupation.
The Man before Koding Kingdom
I sat down with a Mr. John Huen to talk about why learning to code is important and how he is actually helping many children in Hong Kong to do so.
John was born and raised in Hong Kong. He attended Kwun Tong Government Secondary Technical School and graduated from the Industrial Engineering program at HKU. He is a proud alumnus of Ricci Hall where he was the captain of the volleyball team. He then furthered his studies at the University of Oxford with an M.Phil in Management Studies under the Swire & Foreign and Commonwealth Scholarship.
Returning to Hong Kong, he became as a manager for CITIC Pacific where he was assisting the company’s merger and acquisition activities in the technology-media-telecommunications (TMT) segment for 10 years. He then moved to lead CDC Games China as the COO, where helped the company traverse troubled waters with his expertise. His leadership in CDC Games resulted in John being awarded the Top 10 Game CEO in 2009 granted by the authoritative industry media www.17173.com. His next undertaking was as the CEO of Gigamedia China, a position he took for about 3 years.
A new chapter with Koding Kingdom
With extensive experience in the technology and the gaming industry, John wanted to start his own venture. Equipped with the technical know-how and business acumen he founded Koding Kingdom HK.
Koding Kingdom is one of the biggest kids coding educational institutions in Hong Kong. They have professionally trained over 50 kids coding teachers –- all of them full time university students here. They offer a range of courses for students from 4 to 15.
Mr. John has pioneered groundbreaking methods of teaching coding as well as built a roadmap of educational tools. With tools such as Scratch, Stencyl, Alice, AutoGami, Minecraft, Kodable and innovative unplugged coding methods, Koding Kingdom provides a comprehensive learning experience. He believes that teaching computer programming to the young will not only be potentially useful in finding a career but encourages other aptitudes such as creativity, logic, problem solving and communication.
When asked how his company is unique from other competitors, he said “Having a strong background in online games and doing my own studios, is a very useful background to get to know the user requirements of young people.”
He also stressed the importance of sacrificing short-term gains for long-term rewards by building up his company first.
John also started Let’s Code, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promote code education in Hong Kong.
Aside from conducting workshops and seminars, they offer coding classes to the underprivileged. To date they have provided free kids coding courses for over 200 students from primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong.
Let’s Code collaborates with NGOs such as Association for Specific Learning Disabilities, Hong Kong Association for the Deaf, Hong Kong Student Aid Society Primary School and HKSKH MacLehose Centre (Kwai Chung). Also working with HKU and the Association for Computer Education Hong Kong, Let’s Code wishes to reach out to as many as possible and inform them the merits of programming.
Just March 1st this year, Let’s Code joined forces with Cyberport to organise Let’s Code Day. This event hosted the 1st Minecraft Programming Competition for schoolchildren; Code Education Seminars by various academics sharing their insights on the importance of computer programming and Coding Workshops to introduce coding to the general public. The event received tremendous support from the children and general public alike.
Mr. John Huen has a long journey ahead in his endeavour to bring coding education to the masses. Many in Hong Kong do not see the need to learn programming. Countries around the world however are increasingly active, such as the UK with their compulsory coding curriculum in the works.
Efforts by people like Mr. Huen are important first steps for Hong Kong. By raising awareness about the importance of computer programming and offering an outlet for the children to learn, Koding Kingdom fills an important gap in the market. Equipping the children with the skills and interest in computer science will help create a more tech-savvy and capable progress drivers of the future.