4 Major Reasons You Need Coding Skills Even If You Don't Want to Be an Engineer
As a writer and marketer with no future dreams of becoming an engineer, I never really thought learning to code would be relevant for my job.
Since then, I’ve met dozens of non-engineers—in all sorts of professions—whose programming knowledge has accelerated their careers. Now, I’m convinced. Read on to learn four major reasons you and I both should start looking into coding classes.
1. It Will Make You More Self-Sufficient
Most technical teams have too many projects and not enough time—which means a request that’s high priority to you might be medium or even low priority to them.
But if you know how to code, you don’t have to wait around for help: You might be able to do it yourself.
“I can build landing pages for marketing campaigns without having to rely on a designer or an engineer,” says Tyler Moore, Marketing Director for App Press. “I’ve mostly worked for technical startups and SaaS companies, and being able to iterate quickly has made it a lot easier to ship new campaigns, or to get something started that I can hand off to an actual designer or engineer for polishing.”
Jessica Elle, who runs digital marketing for Forest Giant, uses her coding chops to improve site SEO and make quick design changes. “It’s not necessary to know HTML and CSS, but it’s so helpful,” she says.
Elle is also in the process of learning two more programming languages, Go and Python. “Digital marketing requires a lot of data analysis,” she explains. “Tools exist, but most of them involve manual data crunching. Go and Python are super helpful when you need to parse through loads of data to grab marketing insights from.” Once Elle is fully up to speed, she won’t need external help to compile and analyze data.
Programming skills are beneficial even if you don’t work in a marketing role. Let’s say you’re a sales rep: If a potential customer asks you a technical question, you can answer immediately instead of consulting an engineer. Or if you're in customer support, you could quickly resolve a ticket without having to ping a co-worker.
Not only will you save time, but you’ll gain valuable credibility.
2. It Will Teach You How to Think
As Steve Jobs once said, “I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think. I view computer science as a liberal art.”
In other words, learning to code won’t just give you technical knowledge—it’ll also give you a new way to approach your work.
“Coding forced me to start out with a plan, identify potential trouble areas, and troubleshoot, troubleshoot, troubleshoot,” says Heather Stegner, Senior Director of Communications at American Wood Council. “It's a logical way of thinking that I've been able to apply just as successfully when developing a media strategy as trying to figure out why Internet Explorer isn't cooperating.”
Learning to program also makes your attention to detail skyrocket. After all, when a single misplaced hyphen or missing period can mess up your entire code, you become quite skilled at checking your work (not to mention, doing things right the first time!).
3. It Will Improve Your Communication and Collaboration Skills
Projects are rarely created in a vacuum. Developing something usually requires multiple people with varied perspectives, ideas, and skills to come together and work in sync—and that often involves working with engineers. By having some knowledge of coding, you’ll have a better sense of what’s realistic in terms of results, quality, and timeline, making you a much better teammate or leader.
“It’s much easier to communicate with engineers, designers, and product managers,” says web producer Katelyn Cowen, now that she’s taken General Assembly’s part-time Front-End Web Development course. “I was able to give well-thought-out feedback regarding feature development, and could do more investigation when it came to bug triage.”
Even if you’re not regularly working on projects with engineers, programming knowledge can make you a better co-worker. At some point, we’ve all been asked for a “small favor” that’s actually a huge request, right? If you know roughly how much time and energy technical projects take, you’ll avoid annoying your development team with unreasonable requests. Plus, as much as programming has a reputation of being solo work, it is more often an incredibly collaborative activity. Many coding courses incorporate “partner programming,” a technique in which two people sit at the same workstation and take turns programming and giving feedback. Even if that’s not a part of your education, you’ll at least have someone reviewing your code on a regular basis. If you can handle sitting next to someone while he or she reviews each line of your work, you’ll kick butt at other types of collaborative projects.
4. It Can Take Your Career to New Heights
Remember my former manager, the marketer who knew how to code? Well, two months after I joined her team, she got a huge promotion. And she told me her technical chops were the tipping factor.
Overall, learning to code can open up a world of new options, whether it’s moving up, taking on exciting new projects, or making a shift in the work you’re doing. Because of her newfound coding knowledge, Stegner was invited to help refresh the company’s website, a great accomplishment to bring to her boss or put on her resume down the road, if you ask us.
Aryana Jackson, a marketing manager, says programming has helped her dramatically expand her role since she started three years ago at Eboxlab, an IT support company. “My position was ‘graphic designer,’ and that’s all I did,” she explains. “After teaching myself how to code, I started tweaking the HTML and CSS of our clients’ websites. Now, coding is a significant portion of my job.” Plus, thanks to Jackson’s skills, Eboxlab doesn’t need to hire another developer—making her even more valuable to the company.
Or, if you’re thinking about launching a company of your own, having technical knowledge will make your startup dreams more feasible—in fact, it might be the factor that gets you to launch. It did for Katie Fang, the founder and CEO of SchooLinks: “Katie majored in finance during college but took a few coding classes on the side,” explains Afton Jones, a marketing associate at SchooLinks. “As a result, she was able to cobble together a working prototype on her own when she came up with the vision for the company: a platform that connects students to schools.”
When you’re ready to dive in further, there are so many options available to you, from workshops and day-long bootcamps to part-time courses and online programs you can do after work to full-time immersive courses for the folks who really want to go all in. Which is right for you depends on a lot on how much coding you want to know—but once you get going, you may never want to stop.
Photo of woman coding courtesy of Christian Petersen-Clausen/Getty Images.
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