Why You Should Learn To Code Even As a Non-Technical Founder

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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 took the minimum time necessary, and expanded my “knowledge” with HTML, CSS and Javascript. My contribution to the product was negligible, but I became more familiar with the product, got myself involved in techie conversations, and ended up with a different point of view in regards to my marketing role.

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

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5 thoughts on “Why You Should Learn To Code Even As a Non-Technical Founder

  1. Adrian Khoo (@akhoo) January 15, 2013 at 3:41 pm Reply

    Thanks for sharing – that really connected with me. I’m non-technical but learnt HTML5 / CSS3 over a few months and found that to be really helpful:
    (1) It allowed me to contribute to the Engineering team, for example, I actually coded the launch page for our product
    (2) It gave me a better ability to understand what the Engineering team was doing, which made it easier for me to work with them
    (3) I found that techies respected me more for trying and it gave me avenues to pursue a slightly more technical career path if I wanted to.

    • liordegani January 15, 2013 at 3:51 pm Reply

      Thanks Adrian, I’m glad you connected with it.
      Those are great points you’ve mentioned on how this can help your non-technical works.

  2. Milos January 24, 2013 at 1:52 pm Reply

    Goog advices. I also know html,css and learning now js and php as server side. I think it’s very good to know how, so co-founders can also do some developing.

  3. Bradford Arner February 7, 2013 at 3:45 pm Reply

    Lior, well said. I was 100% non-technical when we began one of our projects, a language learning application. I didn’t know a thing about programming. After listening to an interview with David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of Rails who learned to code later in life, I decided that there was no excuse for not being involved in every aspect of the project.

    I completely agree, whether you are directly contributing to the code that appears in the application or not, learning at least the basics has immense benefits for a co-founder in a web start-up. If nothing else you an begin to appreciate the time necessary to build a truly great product.

    • liordegani February 8, 2013 at 7:16 am Reply

      Great points here Bradford. Thanks for sharing!

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