Should business people learn to code?


I’ve been hearing a lot of rumbling lately from numerous Tweeps that business people should learn to code since technology is now so ingrained in business. Having a foot in technology and a foot in marketing I feel somewhat qualified to respond to this suggestion. Here are some things to consider.

Technology is a matter of Literacy – This comment came from the creator of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg and it’s hard to argue with. Just as math and the language of your choice are essential to business, technology has now assumed it’s rightful spot amongst required skill sets.

Code is poetry – This is something you hear from techies and it’s true. Well written code makes an application/site a fluid experience with things such as reduced wait times for data, etc. There are few poets in this world and some businesses have had to resort to acquiring business for their talent. (e.g, Google, Facebook.)Gives new meaning to human capital.

Code is a commodity – There is a type of online businesses representation that require “less” skill to create. (Think website.) This is the kind of coding that get’s outsourced or pushed to sites like 99Designs. It’s important to the business but it’s possible to find many resources to get it done.

Not everyone has the “knack” – I used to work with a Sr. Systems Engineer named Mark that taught coding to undergrad computer science students. We discussed the knack the same week it took me 30 minutes to solve a problem that my counterpart Matt took 7 minutes to resolve. I don’t have the knack and unlike some other skills, all the training in the world wouldn’t provide me with it. (Just in case you haven’t figured it out, the knack is the ability to pick up the syntax, structure and flow of the code with ease like some do with a musical instrument.)

Axure – Axure is a product (among others) that allows non-technical people to communicate an idea in a clickable wireframe. An example I did for PSFK is here. Instead of creating real code (crap or poetry) this is simply a way to ensure business people and technical people are on the same page.

Techies get new marketing – Over the last year, I’ve had the founders of Forkly and Roximity in my class and frankly they scared the hell out of my students. They could code (poets) AND execute all of the inbound marketing techniques out there today. SEM, SEO, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. They are reason people are recommending business people learn to code.

You won’t know until you try – You won’t know if you have the knack until you try coding. I had much more success with interface-based driven code such as JavaScript and CSS. (This is ver different from code at the app layer.) My advice is to pick something you think you’d like to learn and get online and find tutorials and try it out. I don’t suggest taking a class. If you really want to code and have the knack; the tutorials will be enough. Who knows? You could be a dual threat that business people can fear!! Best of luck.

By Michael Myers