Why you need to learn to code if you work in tech

If you work in tech, you need to know how to code. This doesn’t mean you need to be a programmer. It doesn’t mean you need to be writing code everyday, or that you need to learn every coding language there is. What it does mean is that you need to learn to understand code.

There’s been an ongoing debate, especially since Codecademy introduced its CodeYear program, over the idea that everyone needs to learn to code – whether you work in the tech industry or not. Many have agreed with this, although some say that it will only lead to more mediocre (or bad) code being produced.

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While this is a fair point, what’s missing from the argument is the idea that learning to code doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be (or want to be) a programmer. Learning to code can be purely to gain understanding of coding and how programming languages are used.

This is what everyone working in tech needs to know, and why we all need to learn to code.

You’ll be better at your job

Whether you work in sales, marketing or customer support, or you’re a co-founder who does a bit of everything, you’ll do a better job if you understand code.

If you understand the backend of your product, you’ll have a better idea of what your customers need and how they’re going to use it. You can provide clearer, more effective information about it and you will be able to go further with your customer support before running to the devs for help.

You’ll also have a better understanding of what may or may not be possible for your product. With no coding experience, it’s very difficult to effectively gauge the possibilities of adding, removing or changing features. Just a little understanding of how the backend works will bring you out of the dark – a little, at least.

In both of these cases, you’ll be wasting less time. Whether it’s figuring things out on your own, or just filtering questions and suggestions before sending requests to your devs, everyone will appreciate the improved efficiency.

You’ll communicate better with your team

Talking to someone in your company about what they do is difficult if you don’t understand it. Even more so if you need to collaborate to achieve a result.

By learning how programming works, you are learning the “language of the developer”. You can speak to them in their native tongue! Sure, you won’t be as fluent as they are, but you’ll be able to get your point across without your developers having to translate everything you say.

Knowing how code works also gives you a leg up when it comes to general communication with your dev team: you’ll have a better idea of their mindset and how they approach the product. You’ll understand (somewhat, at least) what they do all day, how they make the product do what it does, and why they are important.

You’ll be more powerful

When you have no idea what it means to write, fix or implement code, you position yourself as an outsider in the tech industry. You become Jen, from The IT Crowd: the clown of the team who has no idea what everyone else does. The one on whom the geeks get to play pranks like these:

Jen gets tricked into warning everyone at a board meeting not to type ‘google’ into Google, lest they break the internet.

Jen gets tricked into presenting a black box to company shareholders as ‘the internet’ (after being granted permission by The Elders Of The Internet, of course).

Jen gets ridiculed for not knowing what a browser is, and for having a laptop from the exorcist.

You don’t want to be Jen. Especially if you work in tech.

Having even a basic understanding of what it means to be a programmer gives you special powers – the ability to engage coders in conversation and hold your ground. It will save you from being left in the dark, in the corner, by yourself, protecting ‘the internet’ from flash photography and loud voices.

Everybody code now

I can’t say definitively that ‘everyone should learn to code.’ I think should is a dirty word, and nobody can tell you what’s right for you. I also have to agree with Jeff that more code isn’t necessarily a good thing.

I do think that learning to understand code would benefit everyone who works in tech.