Does everyone code in a startup ?
help commercial civilians understand software engineering principles
Hans Baumhardt | 14 January 2017
It’s fantastic to read business network articles by or about folk who are in non-technical roles learning to code and get stuff done. HR, marketing, finance, the “them and us“ misunderstandings between civilians and developers are dissolving as programmable tech becomes more accessible.
I am not an engineer or professional developer, but have written code throughout my career if it helps solve a problem and achieve an outcome. Dbase for aircraft scheduling, Visual Basic for operations management, and as a business consultant I spend a lot of time with Excel macros and BI queries to help my clients figure out which half of their marketing budget is wasted. These are simple functions, not complex structured code, but it’s still getting things done in a non-verbal language.
Twelve months ago I cofounded a SAAS tech startup as the commercial leader. Running a company is incredibly messy and stressful as a given. Commercial leadership wrangling investors and customers can be tough, but this is my business as usual métier. Product management to deliver the build-measure-learn product:market validation with discipline has been great, but not a stretch.
As a founder you do WHATEVER it takes to get the job done and produce; Within moral and ethical boundaries.
To meet our product launch aspirations with a modest budget and engineering team, I decided to learn several new tech languages along with the underlying platform APIs to create product validation experiments at scale. They are nothing like Excel macros, or what I remember from Basic so the learning curve was steep:
Of course this is still not professional development, and learning these semantics are far easier than a spoken foreign language, but in a JFDI product validation business phase it’s super useful and highly rewarding. So much so, that creating new experiments to make the systems dance and deploy has become an indulgence I need to step away from to get my commercial jobs done.
Until we have to specialise for scale, I am happy to say that in our business everyone codes – there are no “them and us” civilians or non-combatants. I’m interested to find out at what point of growth we have to transition from generalists to specialists, and will it stop being fun ?
PS To be clear I have not written any code in our actual product, that would be properly mad.
First published by the author on hjbconsulting.uk