Being in a technical environment my entire professional life, I came across programming several times:
First, as a System Engineer I came familiar with basic scripts programming, and DB structures. Later on, during my engineering studies, I learned some basic C and Java programming.
I never became an expert or developed the desire to be a programmer, but by knowing the basics of programming and how systems are built, I understood how it helps one become a better startup founder.
Got my hands dirty
I was always capable of having decent coding conversations, so when we needed an extra hand in the development of SUMMER, it was clear to me I could step up to help with the client-side programming.
I fell in love with this status. When I was asked to program for my studies final project using any programming language I wished – I took the opportunity to learn Python (our server-side language), and wrote an entire program based on it.
As I expanded my knowledge of programming, I began to better understand the bigger picture.
Get explanations from the programmers
I’m no longer involved in a programming role, but I’m still doing my best to know about the inner workings of our products. I initiate frequent discussions with my technical co-founders, I want to know the flow of our system, what it takes from us to do certain things, why some take longer than others, and so on.
Understanding the background of your system, and how beneficial it can be for you is a huge advantage for several reasons:
1. Know How Stuff Works
The basic and most common advantage when you know how your system works, is actually absorbing the daily routine of startup life. Additions and improvements to your product might be something you talk or think about frequently.
Encounters with bugs, unclear scenarios, and other weird cases happen all the time. Knowing the cause of these issues, and understanding the situation is important as a founder of the company, rather than waiting helplessly for the problem to be fixed.
2. Pitching & Meetings
Startup founders often find themselves in situations where they need to talk about the startup and the product. When in a marketing role, you can find yourself with people wanting to know more than the general explanation of the product. Some people will be interested in the technology behind it, learn about future capabilities, technical advantages, and so on.
Having the answers to these inquiries can improve a meeting or a discussion, and prevent questions from awkwardly hanging in the air.
Picture yourself speaking with potential collaborators, interested bloggers, or a journalist wanting to cover your work – having the right answers allows you tell a better story, and even can be a time-saver for both parties.
3. Product Support
In an early-stage startup, all of the founders handle customer support. If you are the person behind the social accounts, you are the first stop in the support process. Knowing the answers to technical questions from customers saves their time, your time, and the precious time of your fellow programmers. With my understanding of the product, I am able to easily answer questions regarding low-level bugs and user feature requests, leaving the development team out of the communication.
Trust me, you and your teammates will greatly appreciate streamlining of this process.
I would love to hear if any of you non-techies had the chance to learn to code, and how it affected you in your startup.
Picture credit: Hans Braxmeier