Entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid to code: here’s why

Many entrepreneurs are afraid of code. They see coding as magic — something that requires a degree in computer science to even begin to understand. Some think they’re not smart enough or mathematical enough to learn to code, so they decide it’s easier to hire a developer or find a technical co-founder — all because they’re too afraid (or think they’re too busy) to learn.

Even entrepreneurs who express an interest in coding have a hard time figuring out where and how to start. Coding boot camps are often prohibitively expensive — they can cost more than US$10 000 — and require several weeks of full-time work, which can be impossible for business owners with busy schedules. But there are other options.

Busting the myths of coding

Despite all of the challenges and misconceptions, learning to code is easier and cheaper today than ever before, and the benefits can be enormous. Here are a few myths about a coding that just aren’t true.

Myth 1: coding is too hard to learn

Learning how to code isn’t as hard as people make it out to be. It used to be more difficult when esoteric languages like C++ and Java were the only options. But today, there are several new user-friendly choices. Languages like Ruby and Python have exploded in popularity because they help solve challenges that startups face every day and don’t require years of study and a degree in advanced mathematics to understand.

I’m a great example of this. I don’t have a degree in computer science, and until recently, I’d never written a line of code in my life. Taking advantage of resources available to anyone and everyone, I learned how to code Ruby on Rails in less than a month.

Myth 2: Coding is only accessible to a certain demographic

Coders come from several different backgrounds, many of which have nothing to do with computer science or other STEM fields. I’ve met some coders who were English majors and history majors and some coders who didn’t even attend college.

In reality, coding is a lot like learning to speak a new language with different grammar and rules. No one would tell you that only certain people can learn Spanish or French, so why should learning to speak the language of code be any different?

Myth 3: It’s easier to hire someone else

Finding a good developer or technical co-founder is hard. Believe me; I tried for months without any luck.

Demand for coders is higher today than ever before. Many coders start making six-figure salaries soon after college and have a variety of options to choose from. Why should a coder choose your business over the hundreds or thousands of other opportunities?

Entrepreneurs constantly have to figure out how to accomplish something in the face of an overwhelming lack of resources. Often, that means doing it yourself, and in this scenario, doing it yourself means writing the code yourself.

Myth 4: Amateur coders can’t produce meaningful work

You can do more with one coder and a laptop today than you could with 12 coders and a room full of servers 15 years ago.

When I’m thinking of a new feature, it helps immensely to be able to take a few hours to mock up a quick prototype and show it to people. Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare, agrees. The small amount of time I spend building something tangible that I can show others makes a massive difference — especially when I don’t have to waste the time of a full-time coder to do it.

The other day, I updated our terms of service without having to talk to a single developer. With all the small things that need doing every day, even a small amount of coding knowledge makes your company more agile.

Why coding makes a difference

Even for leaders and businesspeople who don’t intend to become code slingers, a basic knowledge of coding can strengthen communication skills. Knowing code helps you empathize with developers, better manage your resources, and be more strategic because you don’t need to have someone explain every little thing to you. Learning how to code can even change your hiring process as you learn more about what you need in a developer.

When you can code, you understand more about the potential problems your product might face. Even better, your new knowledge could open up new solutions you might not have been able to consider otherwise.

It doesn’t really matter where you start as long as you start somewhere. In addition to my company, aspiring amateur coders can check out the lynda.com tutorial for Ruby on Rails, Michael Hartl’s tutorial, and Codecademy’s Ruby track.



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