Here at Tech Talent South, we believe it’s especially important for entrepreneurs to learn how to code. As Tech Talent South alumni and founder of Giusto, Randall Mardus has said, “We live in a world where there is software around, all around us. As they say, ‘software is eating the world’ and if you don’t know how to create it, you don’t how to manipulate it, you don’t understand it, there’s a good chance you might be at a disadvantage in the future.” Hear more from Randall Mardus here.
Following the words of one of our own, here are four reasons why learning to code can not only help you succeed in the here and now of entrepreneurship, but also set you up for success in future ventures as well.
Prepare for the future
You’ve probably seen tons of articles and blog posts out there that list off reasons why learning to code should be a priority. And yes, coding is an absolutely essential skill to know now, but learning to code is also a way to prepare for the future. As far as we can predict and see into the future, code seems to be a major building block in every part of society.
No matter what venture you start, your company will likely have some sort of coding involved. Whether it is a basic informational website, an online ordering system, a communication tool for your employees, or a full-scale, enterprise application, you will need code to accomplish at least parts of your business. As we progress in technology, software and development will seep into almost every single aspect of a company. Hey, we’re almost at that point now! Anything from customer acquisition and retention, to actual product development, to logistics and analytics, coding is involved in all of these areas of business.
On top of this, coding can literally be applied to any industry! Think about it. We now see programs and applications running industries of all types: agriculture, healthcare, law enforcement, entertainment, you name it. We are seeing entire industries revolutionized by technology and software, and this pattern will only continue. So no matter what industry your first or fiftieth venture falls under, knowing code will always provide you with a skillset to build a company.
While in startup mode, the value of a dollar really counts. As an entrepreneur, being scrappy is a way of life, and cost effectiveness is key. In addition to being prepared for the future, learning how to code can be an incredible way to save you time and money.
As far as development of your product is concerned, writing the code yourself (or at least having a hand in it) can save you loads of money from the get go. For starters, building the entire product yourself can save you from upfront costs of hiring developers to build the product for you. If you are not bringing in money before product launch, hiring developers to initially build the product can really drain finances.
If building the entire product yourself is not reasonable, you may think about tackling your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) yourself. Creating this, or at least a working prototype, can get the ball rolling enough so you have a tangible asset to show off to potential customers and investors.
In addition to doing the development yourself, knowing how to code can also give you a good grasp on efficient project management! Learning to code can give valuable insight into things like:
- How to evaluate talent
- What languages or infrastructure is needed
- How much time developers should spend on tasks
- How much development should cost
- Determining if the code base being built correctly
- Ensuring good code and whether or not it will be easy to update/upgrade/scale.
All of these insights can be developed just by picking up some coding skills, and can help your company be more efficient and effective with both time and money.
Understanding how to code can also show you the benefits and wonders of automation and completing business operations through software. Having the knowledge base of how to create tools, even if small, to automate repetitive or mundane processes can be tremendously helpful for your company to operate at a higher level, at a lower cost.
Build Better Products
Have you ever felt completely out of place when talking to an accountant about your taxes or to a mechanic about your car? As an entrepreneur (and likely project manager of your business’ products and operations) if you don’t know a lick of code, you’ll certainly feel just as uncomfortable talking to the developers you’ve hired. Understanding the world in which developers work and talking their language can go a long way in understanding exactly what’s going on, determining whether or not you have enough staff for the project, and relating to your team. Having a solid foundation in code, will give you insight on the work that is being done and setting realistic attainable expectations for your development team.
Another added benefit of learning how to program is the mindset that comes with being a programmer. Writing code will cause you to think differently than you ever have before, and can be a huge asset in problem solving. Programming forces you to begin thinking about everything (not just the code base) in smaller components. Learning core concepts of object oriented and functional programming will have you breaking things down to its most basic parts and examining how it all works together. Nothing can prepare you better for being creative with the technology and tools you have available, especially when things aren’t working exactly like you expect!
Things to Keep In Mind
As an entrepreneur, be mindful of the following things as you begin your journey in learning to code.
You Don’t Have to Be the Best
Let’s be real. You don’t have to be an amazing coder to be an effective entrepreneur! Yes, I said it! In fact, you can do a lot of things with a decent set of basic tech skills. Just being able to effectively “talk the talk” can help you build a great product in a smart way, get off the ground more quickly, save money in more than one way, and even gain investment. In technology, having just basic skills is a huge advantage to knowing nothing about the technology you are using.
It’s Easy To Jump In!
What’s great about learning to code these days is that you’re surrounded by great opportunities to jump into the development world. There are an abundance of resources out there for developing a solid foundation in code. In addition to reading beginner coding books and running through tutorials online, coding bootcamps are a great way to pick up coding skills at relatively low costs and in a quick time frame.
Working in the tech field and being around lots of startups, I've heard endless stories of entrepreneurs spending thousands and thousands each month (or year) to get their product off the ground. With such low barriers of entry (as far as time and money is concerned), why not empower yourself with a foundation in these skills? You could easily reduce those costs.
You’ll Need To Stay Up To Date
Unlike learning to ride a bike, learning to code isn’t a one time thing. You’ll need to continuously practice your coding skills and stay up to date with the development world. Languages, frameworks, and tools are constantly being created, updated, and shut down. A year can be a lifetime in coding, so you’ll need to make sure you familiarize yourself with current technologies. Doing so will give you and your company the knowledge and skillset to determine which tools and new features to take advantage of.
Final Thought - Being Your Own CTO
Friends, I'll leave you with this thought. We all know that assembling a rockstar team is critical for a startup's success. Having been to a few rodeos (and I'm writing this in Texas, so the metaphor is appropriate), one of the most common questions you'll get at investor pitches and accelerator applications is, "who is your CTO?"
You don't want to find yourself pulling in the first technical person you meet as your CTO because you feel external pressure to do so. Empower yourself with the skills to navigate technical questions yourself, so that if/when you decide to bring on a CTO, you can both fairly evaluate his or her qualifications and hire the right person at the right time to suit your company's growth and cultural fit.