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Do Tech Entrepreneurs Need To Know How To Code? 202

Posted by timothy
from the what-servants-are-for dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Learning to write code has become something of a trendy thing to do. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he intends to learn code this year. Estonia has recently announced a scheme with the aim of getting every 6-year-old in the Baltic state to learn programming skills. The demand has spawned a number of start-ups offering coding lessons. General Assembly, which teaches off-line courses, has recently opened up in London and is recruiting ahead of a launch in Berlin. On-line education site Codecademy landed $10 million to expand from its home base in New York. Zach Simms, the 22-year-old co-founder, said in an earlier interview with The Wall Street Journal that not everyone has to learn to code, but everybody 'needs to learn the notions of algorithms, realizing what you can use code for.' But do they?"
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Do Tech Entrepreneurs Need To Know How To Code?

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  • Coders are the pillar of our industry. We need more of them. Here, get Visual Studio [microsoft.com] and start coding today!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 06, 2012 @01:40PM (#41250637)

      I feel like all of /. is about to break out into a chant of "developers, developers, developers!" ....

      Any second now, just wait for it...

    • by thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) <marc.paradise@NOSpaM.gmail.com> on Thursday September 06, 2012 @01:52PM (#41250827) Homepage Journal

      Coders are the pillar of our industry. We need more of them. Here, get Visual Studio [microsoft.com] and start coding today!

      Knowing how to code does not a developer make.

      • by multicoregeneral (2618207) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @02:01PM (#41250967) Homepage
        I think more developers should get their heads out of the asses and become entrepreneurs. Seriously. Where exactly does experience as a developer get you, other than more dead end jobs as a developer? Unless developers become entrepreneurs, they run the serious risk of working their butts off, and having nothing to show for it three, five, twenty years later. Seriously, it's a fucking terrifying idea.
        • by fifedrum (611338)

          well said, first voice of reason of the day

        • Welcome to the real world. You could always work in a car factory for half the money. Strike that, not a good example. [yahoo.com] You could always work in another non-unionized job for half the money, and have to work just as hard, and with the same or even less job security. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. But I will agree that if you have the knack, know-how, drive and determination to be an entrepreneur, your reward potential is much higher.
        • by tilante (2547392) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @02:28PM (#41251375)
          You do realize that most startups fail, right? Entrepreneurs run a serious risk of working their butts off, and having nothing to show for it three, five, twenty years later. Except in the entrepreneur's case, that 'working their butts off' is more literal (since running a startup easily takes a lot more than 40 hours a week), and that 'nothing to show for it' may be followed by 'except a big load of debt'.
          • by ghostdoc (1235612)

            Most startups fail, yes, but entrepreneurs usually try more than once.
            The mantra is 'fail fast': If your current business isn't going to work, then find out fast and do something else.
            It is risky, and there is a danger that you'll spend years working very hard for very little actual money, but you only need to get lucky once.

        • by WaywardGeek (1480513) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @03:15PM (#41252121) Journal

          I agree that developers should be more entrepreneurial. As my uncle always said, you'll never get rich working for someone else, and the worst that can happen starting a company is you wind up where you started: broke. So what? You can always try again or give up and get a regular job.

          However, a lot of great coders are just not cut out to start businesses. Starting a business requires many different skill sets to be present in the initial founders and employees. For example, you're not likely to grow a business without hiring good people and then managing them well, so founders without decent experience in this area are likely to learn through repeated failure. You'd also be quite surprised at how many regular guys become psychotic a-holes as soon as real money is involved. In general, the larger the founding team, the more likely one of the founders will sabotage the company. My favorite number of founders is 1 or 2, which means the founders need to be jacks of all trades. They need to be the CEO, marketing VP, sales VP, CTO, CFO, IT support, human resources, office manager, receptionist, and all the worker bees all rolled into one. If a good programmer happens to fail in a major skill required for his startup, it likely wont work out. If he needs funding, yet isn't good at raising it, he'll fail. If he's got great ideas and is awesome at implementing them, yet couldn't sell free dog food to dogs, he'll likely learn a valuable lesson in how not to start a company.

          So, do entrepreneurs need to learn to code? If code has to be written, and the number of founders is 1, and there's no money to hire coders, then yes. Otherwise, probably not. In my experience, the reason so many tech startups are started by techies is the people building this generation of tech are the ones who most easily see the implications of where technology is heading. A business major learning to program in Java isn't going to gain that insight. However, a guy with all those other skills partnered with the right geek could make a great 2-person team. Techie: Bill Hewlett Biz-head: David Packard. Techie: Woz Biz-head:Jobs. There are tons of techie/biz-head teams. The other way to go is if you can do it all yourself, but you should start out in tech, not learn it as an after-thought.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I agree that developers should be more entrepreneurial. As my uncle always said, you'll never get rich working for someone else, and the worst that can happen starting a company is you wind up where you started: broke. So what? You can always try again or give up and get a regular job.

            Spoken like someone with no family to support. Most people do NOT get rich. The worst thing that can happen is that my children starve, go without education or medical care. And jobs for those educated as software developers are being outsourced at an alarming rate - meaning if I "give up and get a regular job" it might be at considerably less than my current wage.

        • by loufoque (1400831)

          It's much easier to find a good developer job than it is to create your own business and make it successful. (and I'm saying that as a CEO)
          I also wouldn't say being a software developer is a dead end when you compare the average salary of software developers to that of the whole population.

        • by HiThere (15173)

          If you've got the right skill set to be an entrepreneur, it's unlikely you'll be a developer. And conversely. That developers aren't well rewarded is a commentary about society as much as about the individuals that choose to be developers. I'll admit, however, that it *is* a commentary about both.

          OTOH, most middle management jobs have even less of a future than do developers. Automation is rapidly advancing on them, at the same time that it's slowly advancing on developers. Top management is only safe

          • (And I *don't* count Bill Gates as an example. He was definitely an entrepreneur, but to me it appears that he skill as a developer is all PR and "theft". [I'm willing to concede that I have no evidence that he actually broke any laws. So theft is in quotes.])

            Bill Gates himself wrote several pretty succesful BASIC interpreters (among them the one in C64). Also he did a lot of code reviews, and was respected for his technical insights while being the CEO of the early Microsoft.

      • Using archaic word ordering doesn't make a comment more insightful ;)
    • by loufoque (1400831)

      How about an actually good, extensible, stable and scalable toolchain instead?

  • It's an increasingly vital part of how absolutely everything in the world works. It's the battleground for various political factions (everything from stuxnet to DRM to Anonymous hacks). It increasingly determines what you can and cannot do with the stuff you think you own.

    Not knowing anything about programming or how it works is something I consider nearly as bad as illiteracy in our society.

    • I'm sure a lot of folk think that their field of knowledge is vital stuff to know. Automobiles are a significant part of our society, yet is not knowing how combustion engines work as bad as being illiterate?

      Besides, fewer people that know programming means more job security and less competition for me. :P
      • Besides, fewer people that know programming means more job security and less competition for me.

        It also means fewer people interested in acquiring tools for programming, which means less competition among tool makers for programmers' dollars and mind share, which ultimately means more expensive tools for people like you who do know programming.

      • Except that increasingly, understanding the workings of an internal combustion engine rely on understanding code. I do not think you can find one part of the economy, one device in which code is not an important piece. Perhaps silverware, maybe. Though how is it made?

        Besides, fewer people that know programming means more job security and less competition for me. :P

        I welcome the competition and the new ideas it will bring. I'm confident of my own ability to learn and stay on top of my field.

      • i think everybody should know enough about "stuff" to at least understand when THEY ARE BEING RIPPED OFF

        you might not be able to know exactly how your cars ICE works but you should know Gas Burned in engine turns pistons which turns the transmission which turned the wheels... You should also know when a Garage Hack is trying to charge you for something THAT DOES NOT EXIST.

        You might not know the C source code for a format converter (say from PNG to TIFF) but you should know enough to recognise the differenc

        • by HiThere (15173)

          Without checking Google, I assume you're trying to influence me with bafflegab. I don't rate this as highly probably, but I give it at least a 45% probability.

          Checking Google, but not following the links, it looks like some sort of voltage regulator. But I didn't follow the links, so I don't know if it would blow like a fuse if the voltage goes over 6.2 volts or not.

    • by jmerlin (1010641)
      There's a huge problem with this, though. A little bit of knowledge is often far more dangerous than no knowledge at all. With every person a self-proclaimed "expert" on software engineering/coding because they mastered the basics of if/elses and basic for loop in highschool, we'll have a repeat of Apple v Samsung's foreman claiming "this code can't possibly run on that processor, so it's not prior art" on a massive scale. Have you ever had a boss/manager who knew a little about what you do and that made
      • by HiThere (15173)

        Excellent. But I would only make programming available AFTER the completion of a 1st year algebra class. It doesn't need to be postponed any longer than that, and certain proto-programming courses (e.g. in Scratch from MIT) might be made available as simple week long electives before then. Fitting this kind of thing into the school year, however, would be a real problem. And I don't think a full semester, or quarter, or whatever elementary schools are now running on, would be appropriate.

      • There's a huge problem with this, though. A little bit of knowledge is often far more dangerous than no knowledge at all. With every person a self-proclaimed "expert" on software engineering/coding because they mastered the basics of if/elses and basic for loop in highschool, we'll have a repeat of Apple v Samsung's foreman claiming "this code can't possibly run on that processor, so it's not prior art" on a massive scale. Have you ever had a boss/manager who knew a little about what you do and that made them micromanage, argue and inject patently false ideology or claims, etc? It's terrible.

        This might be true, but smacks of an elitism that makes me profoundly uncomfortable. I would rather people fail in life because they try to pretend they know way more than they do than to keep people in general in the dark so they know nothing and look up to those godlike beings who are the masters of their domain.

        For example, the medical profession currently has the same problem now because the Internet has made it very easy for people to learn things that previously were things only doctors knew. I prefer

        • by jmerlin (1010641)
          I didn't mean it from a stance of elitism nor did I intend to imply we should keep people in the dark. Rather, the presentation should be changed to convey a perspective on a person's actual knowledge of the field. I believe WebMD does a good job at mentioning in every article and on every page that this isn't medical advice and you should speak to your doctor, but it's not prominent enough so people merely ignore it.

          ©2005-2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. WebMD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information.

          This was found at the very bottom of their page in tiny print. Ouch. People typically p

  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @01:41PM (#41250651) Journal
    Do people need to know how to program in C? No. Do they need to know how to think logically? It sure doesn't hurt. But there are other means of teaching formal logic; geometrical proofs are the standard for high school logic. I'm not sure that programming is necessarily the best way to go about it. The kids who have a natural knack for it will gravitate to it, so giving students the option as early as elementary or middle school is probably a fair thing to do. I don't think it should be a mandatory subject, especially at advanced levels.
    • Can people exist in our society without the ability to read? Certainly there is proof of that.

      What level of education do we want for our society? Do we draw the line at literacy? Rational thought? Able to change the oil in a car? Fix a cell phone? Fill out a tax return? Write a spreadsheet formula? Implement a C compiler or operating system for a microcontroller?

      • If everyone is capable of everything, society collapses. I live in abject terror of the day my clients realize that there's nothing magical about installing software, rebooting a computer, or running network cables, because when that day comes I'll be out of a job. As it is, I'll fix their computers and they can continue to do whatever specialization is is they do.
        • I can put up drywall, paint my house, and upgrade the plumbing. But I can pay someone else to do it in less time than I can do it. After I was all in DIY mode, I started adding up the numbers, and it would have been more cost effective for me to get a second job as a part time software developer consultant than to do all the work on my house myself.

          But my original post is not about producing a society of jack-of-all-trades. But it is about where should we draw the line at a well rounded education? Should it

    • > I don't think it should be a mandatory subject, especially at advanced levels.

      And we wonder why we get idiot politicians who don't understand the difference between copying & stealing, the ramifications of privacy, not having standards, etc.

      Learning to program is giving you the opportunity to become a more rational person. Why *wouldn't* you want the future leaders of our country to at *least* have a fucking clue about technology?

    • If you plan to sell an Item with embed software, IMHO, you had best know at least how to read that code. That's not programing, but when there is a depute that you need to get involved in over some code issue You Had better know what is going on.

      I do have mod points, and would have given you an off topic mark, but I do agree that people need logic. And I do agree that Coding is Logical Thinking. You do not need to program in 'C', but it is not a bad place to start. Logo (turtle) might be more fun. My l
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday September 06, 2012 @01:44PM (#41250689) Journal
    I think I can generalize this. If you're doing a startup in the tech community, there's often something that's your bread and butter. There's gotta be something that sets you apart from a big guy clone otherwise you're not a startup, you're just another business trying to do business. This bread and butter is often complex otherwise someone else would already be doing this. If you're the leadership on a startup, the less you know about this core element of your startup, the riskier your venture is going to be.

    Coding is a common one because it's powerful. But your startup could just as easily depend on some hardware thing, like, say Fusion IO cards. And if the leaders of the startup don't understand the power and limitations of those cards, then you're in trouble. I think most of the time what I've seen ruin things inside a Fortune 500 company that does R&D that is supposed to mimic startups is that the leaders don't understand statistics and P-values and recall rates. Software is basically complex math so I guess you could say that was their misunderstanding of what software and "algorithms" could do but ... yeah I've been involved with rule based systems projects where it was pretty clear the people in charge of me didn't know the limitations of rule based systems. Back then, I'd draw out a functional flow block diagram for this system and show them the black box and explain to them why this was going to be trouble.

    If I started up a new drywall startup and claimed I had a new mixture of gypsum and lime pressed between two special kinds of paper done in a certain manner at a certain temperature making it more resistant to moisture, more durable, comparable in price, etc than the crap coming out of China ... but in the end I don't understand the science or the chemistry behind that process, it's probably going to die on the vine. Sure, software is a common misunderstanding for tech startups but it could just as easily be the frequency limits of modern RAM accesses or why a 700 Mhz ARM processor isn't gonna get the job done or how many points a resistive touch display can track at once accurately etc etc.

    Basically if you don't understand the core concepts that your startup depends on and offers, you're gonna have a bad time.
    • And if the leaders of the startup don't understand the power and limitations of those cards, then you're in trouble.

      True to an extent. As an early-stage entrepreneur, you need to put on many hats. These include marketing, HR, R&D, accounting, etc. So you need to be versed in many aspects of your businesses. This, I agree, usually entails being the one building the product. But as the business grows you have to make a choice: lead the organization or continue developing products. You really cannot do both. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to do both, and this is where the organization usually fails.

      Kee

      • by erice (13380)

        And if the leaders of the startup don't understand the power and limitations of those cards, then you're in trouble.

        True to an extent. As an early-stage entrepreneur, you need to put on many hats.

        Keep in mind also, that as an entrepreneur you're selling a product, not the code. I've met many very successful entrepreneurs of later stage enterprises, who have gone through multiple rounds of funding and are worth hundreds of millions. The people at the helm were all there in the beginning, but they are no longer part of the day-to-day, and probably could not explain the fine-grain details of the product anymore as well as the chemists on the ground floor could. But they can still sell their product without knowing the exact details of the chemical processes, and they made the tough choice of divorcing themselves from the day-to-day research in favor of steering the overall direction of the ship.

        True, but there is a difference between not knowing the details of what R&D is doing and not being able to understand what they are doing. Entrepreneurs at every level, must occasionally make decisions that depend on understanding their own technology. If they can do this without being at mercy of advisers to interpret for them, they and their company will be much better off.

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @01:44PM (#41250701)

    If they were learning to architect software systems, that might be useful and help them to understand what's possible and what's not.

    But learning to code doesn't help them at all, and is more likely to give them a false sense of the complexity of large software systems. He'll say stuff like "Hey, what's so hard about doing this, I can write a function to add this feature in 10 minutes, so go make it happen!", while the engineer is saying "But this is a fundamental change in the data model and means touching nearly our entire code base"

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      Yeah, this is true. It's like someone who learns 1 chord on their guitar deciding that's going to somehow help them start the next break-out Platinum selling band, and they won't shut up about it.

      I can't tell you how many times I have heard marketing or project managers insist something they are requesting is simple to implement because they managed to copy down a Fibonacci function from "Javascript for Dummies".

    • by mykepredko (40154)

      So in other words, "a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing".

      I'm on the fence as to whether or not I agree with you (probably a good thing I don't have mod points right now).

      I have been in situations where I have had people say exactly that to me and it is interesting to see the results when you say - "Wow, that's great, please show me." The responses are generally:
      - 80%, "I'm paying you to do the work and I'm too busy".
      - 15%, go off and I never hear from them again.
      - 5%, actually follow through, fa

    • by smillie (30605) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @02:24PM (#41251317) Journal

      One time I was writing some code to control hardware and the boss wanted it to watch for a condition and then alert the supervisors. I thought it was a good idea and asked him what symptoms defined this condition he wanted to watch for. He said "just let the computer figure it out." I don't think I ever got him to understand the computer doesn't think but just follows rules and until the rules are defined the computer won't know what to do. I ended up making a guess for rules and kept tweeking as I watched for false positives and negatives.

      A entrepreneur needs to understand how computes work and how algorithms work or it's going to be a cluster.

      • " I ended up making a guess for rules and kept tweeking as I watched for false positives and negatives."

        Sounds like you implemented a recurrent neural net with a human perceptron!

    • "But this is a fundamental change in the data model and means touching nearly our entire code base"

      Red flag. Badly designed system.

      • You're being too kind. Any engineer responsible for such an architecture would be placed on my first to layoff list.
      • by hawguy (1600213)

        "But this is a fundamental change in the data model and means touching nearly our entire code base"

        Red flag. Badly designed system.

        Well, it's a made-up scenario, so it's not a poorly designed system, it's an imaginary system.

        Not everyone is able to design a system such that it can accommodate all possible future enhancements without some of them requiring a major rewrite. And, this might come as a surprise to you, but there are plenty of poorly designed systems out there, many of them maintained by people that didn't design it in the first place.

      • Red flag. Badly designed system.

        Worked long in the software business? Badly designed systems with crappy code are routine whereas well designed systems with good code are the exception. Writing good quality software is much harder than most people think and all the more so when constraints of time and budget are thrown into the mix.

  • Of course there are lots of examples of great tech entrepreneurs who can't write a single line of code, so it's obviously it's not a requirement. But I do think it's a practical skill to have, especially in the beginning of your new company when resources are scarce. You can save lots of money and time by being able to whip up your own demo's and prototypes, instead of having to let 3rd party developers create them for you, especially as there tends to be lots of different versions and ideas at the start. A

    • Of course there are lots of examples of great tech entrepreneurs who can't write a single line of code, so it's obviously it's not a requirement.

      are there examples where the technology in question wasn't built with software? it seems unlikely to me, but i'm more asking a question than anything else. and by tech entrepreneurs, we mean founders, not people that swooped in later with some cash and bought a share of the company.

      steve jobs? coder.
      bill gates? coder.
      sergey brin? coder.
      larry ellison? coder.
      mark z? coder.

  • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @01:50PM (#41250795)
    TFA does not ask (or answer) "Do Tech Entrepreneurs Need To Know How To Code?" Rather it asks "Do nontechnical entrepreneurs of digital start-ups need to learn code?" (emph. added).

    This really depends on which stage of a startup you're at. If you're in the garage building the prototype, yeah, you pretty much need to be R&D, which involves coding. If you're further along in the enterprise, perhaps raising money, perhaps building a team, perhaps concentrating on distribution or manufacturing, then being on the ground floor of R&D is much less important. Many founders turned CEO who started at ground zero developing products are ousted (bringing in an outside CEO or other manage) at later points in the life of their company simply because they are too focused on the minutia of product development and R&D, and haven't actually learned how to run and manage their organization.

    Make no mistake, ideas are dime a dozen. Everyone has one, and everyone thinks their idea will make them a million dollars. The reason not everyone is a millionaire is that the conversion between idea and money is dependent much more on execution of the idea than the idea itself. If more entrepreneurs understood this instead of focusing on the product, there would be fewer failure stories to talk about. Now don't get me wrong, a good product is *very* important, but it's still a small part of the larger picture.
    • by Kjella (173770)

      Make no mistake, ideas are dime a dozen. Everyone has one, and everyone thinks their idea will make them a million dollars. The reason not everyone is a millionaire is that the conversion between idea and money is dependent much more on execution of the idea than the idea itself.

      So far everyone agrees with you.

      If more entrepreneurs understood this instead of focusing on the product, there would be fewer failure stories to talk about. Now don't get me wrong, a good product is *very* important, but it's still a small part of the larger picture.

      I think you're at the core but you're failing to make the point real clear. Everybody has heard that ideas is a dime a dozen. The problem is the founder who thinks "execution of the idea" is to turn the idea into a product. Just because I have the idea for a software I need code to implement it, an architecture, user interface, source revision control, security rights, storage, hardware capacity, network capacity and a zillion other things - obviously there's a ton of work be

  • Someone creating a digital start-up definitely needs to understand the product or service they're creating, both the fundamentals and the specifics, but that doesn't mean they personally have to be able to build it. There really isn't a need for a company's creator/owner/whatever to be involved at such a level (unless they actually are an expert in such coding), and there are undoubtedly better things they should be doing with their time. And if they aren't already skilled in responsible coding, they defi
    • by Scowler (667000)
      Whoever is the delegate needs strong communication skills, to be able to clearly and concisely state the benefits and risks of various project proposals made by the entrepreneur. So long as such communication skills exist on the part of the lead developer, I agree with you 100%.
  • by johnlcallaway (165670) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @01:56PM (#41250895)
    'Coding' is syntax. Learning how to explain how to do something using a specific syntax. I think just about anyone can learn how to do that.

    'Coding' is reading a spec and converting it to a specific syntax. I think just about anyone can learn how to do that.

    'Programming' is taking a nebulous idea, breaking it down into a series of inter-related processing components, and then coding those processing components. It's being able to recognize if the processes as defined work as desired and if not, figuring out how which components do not work properly and correct them. It requires certain degrees of spatial skills depending on the complexity and number of processes being coded so that their inter-relationships can be understood.

    Programming is a far more difficult thing to teach, because it requires someone to be able to develop a process where none already exists, or convert an existing process that is not computer-based, into a series of logical processing components and link them together to produce the desired results. It requires someone to step outside lines where everything is neatly defined and define their own instructions.

    When so many people can't even follow directions on how to set the clock on their microwave oven, how the hell does anyone think they can learn to do anything but code what someone else has already written the instructions for.
  • Not everyone needs to know how to code, which I consider a Very Good Thing(tm), for one simple reason...

    Most people either can not or will not ever learn to code. I'd say the mode of thinking itself automatically rules out a good third (at least) of the population simply for raw capacity to learn the necessary skills; on top of which, the vast majority of people who could learn to code find it unbearably tedious and boring. Most people see coding as roughly on par with doing their taxes for "fun".
  • Let's look at a successful mega-companies and see what they do: Yahoo. They know to only hire CEO's with Computer Science degrees. To do otherwise might cause disruption and financial losses to their business. They would never hire a CEO without a CS degree and they do a very thorough investigation into whether they might be trying to pretend like they have one. Yes, you need to know how to code.
  • I think its important for people to know, because it allows them to understand the opportunities as well as the limitations of software. Working in Finance, its painful seeing how few people understand what opportunities lie within 1 hour's worth of code to simplify their life. Even the number of people who print something out in order to scan it is mind boggling. Its not even about whittling at their headcounts and working hours, its about changing the focus. The job should be about ensuring matches an

    • by afgam28 (48611)

      That's very true. IMO there are two massive problems with having nontechnical managers and leaders:

      They don't know what is easy, so they (and their subordinates) spend lots of time doing menial, easily automatable work.

      Also, they don't know what is difficult, so they come up wtih ridiculous ideas that require breakthroughs in artificial intelligence or are theoretically proven to be impossible.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @02:09PM (#41251107) Homepage

    The most successful tech entrepreneurs had significant technical skills. And that absolutely mattered - without those skills, they have no way of evaluating technical employees and applicants. If they weren't in charge of product development themselves, then they at least had to know who they should hire to run product development.

    For example: Bill Gates was an extremely effective developer and architect (worth reading is Joel Spolsky [joelonsoftware.com] writing about a time he met with Bill Gates). Larry and Sergei of Google were well-respected developers doing graduate work at Stanford. Steve Jobs wasn't at good at the technical stuff as Woz was, but he had tinkered with electronics and done technical work for Atari.

    Many MBAs of the world would like to think that managers don't need to understand the details of their product line. But that's simply not true - the manager that understands the details will hire better people, make wiser decisions about how to accomplish tasks, and have a more realistic outlook of what the organization can do.

  • Gee, this is just a fabulous idea. Imagine the dotcom days where everyone and their goldfish were jumping on ship to 'code' because the $$$ was flashing in their eyes. What was the result? Massive massive quantities of crap.

    Now lets magnify that umteen-fold, because suddenly everyone 'knows' how to program. Yeah, that's a great idea. Lets give everyone an unlimited amount of rope and let the Dunning-Kruger effect do the knot tying...

  • John Sculley (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frequency Domain (601421) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @02:17PM (#41251205)
    Peddled soda before becoming CEO of Apple. Everybody thought that his CEO expertise would carry over to any other kind of business. He didn't understand computers and thought he could beat the competition by turning macs into commodity computers and outmarketing the rest of the field. He very nearly put Apple out of business.
  • Yes. They also need basic math and physics skills. They don't get those either.

  • I think that usability and user experience are more important that programming. I think usability and user experience should be taught to everyone at school. It wouldn't require that much hours as it is mostly common sense. And because it is common sense, it would be really easy for people to learn, unlike programming.

    Imagine doors that people can open to correct direction without a mistake. Imagine books where the information you seek is easy to found. Imagine ovens that are easy to heat and light switches

  • by Schmorgluck (1293264) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @02:39PM (#41251571)

    Modeling is a skill that's necessary to developers, and even to base coders it doesn't hurt. And it's also useful to entrepreneurs, especially when it comes to modeling flows of information and materials. They can delegate that skill, of course, but it's only a possibility in a large enough structure. To a small to medium company, having some skills in that matter is important. Owners of very small companies often manage to do that intuitively, but it only works to an extent, and can cause problems when they expand.

    I sometimes half-jokingly state that if a company grows enough that it can have a second coffee machine, a full audit of the information system should be performed before said coffee machin is installed: it might disrupt informal communications between branches (who often happen around the coffee machine), which calls for a formalisation of communications before proceeding.

    To sum up: management students have some courses in common with developers.

    • And sorry for typing "modeling" instead of "modelling".
    • "I sometimes half-jokingly state that if a company grows enough that it can have a second coffee machine, a full audit of the information system should be performed before said coffee machin is installed: it might disrupt informal communications between branches (who often happen around the coffee machine), which calls for a formalisation of communications before proceeding."

      and then either a LARGER coffee machine should be purchased or the second unit should be co-located with the first to minimize said di

  • Step 1: Read the question
    Step 2: Record current time
    Step 3: Think.
    Step 4: Re-examine current time.
    Step 5: If elapsed time 1.0 seconds, goto Step 3
    Step 6: If answer to Step 1 != "yes", Goto Step 1.

  • Once I had a manager who made decisions without thinking about the software.

    Then he made a decision that had a terrible impact. He stipulated conditions that seemed straightforward, but required extensive software modifications

    I showed him the plans for new software that was required to meet his requirements. He did not realize that his "simple" changes required extensive modification, and so his changes turned out to be not so "necessary" after all.

    Since then he has learned how to code, and now he thinks

  • If you want to run a tech business then you need to know the difference between crappy programmers and quality programmers. If you don't know anything about code and what quality code looks like, you could doom your business to failure before you even launch your first product. The longest running product I've got going is 3 years old. The design decisions early on are requiring some massive reworking but the actual business logic of the code is remaining untouched. The code was properly designed to be

  • If you run a software startup and don't know software, you will forever be making errors of judgement due to your lack of that understanding.

    You can't hire people effectively. You can't manage projects effectively. You can't call BS when your engineers tell you it will be done impossibly soon, or isn't possible. You can't *judge*.

    I do tech startup consulting, and a fair bit of my work is helping non-tech founders hire, manage, and analyze. It's crucial to have this ability on your founding team if you'r

  • I graduated with first class honours in 1997 in EE engineering. I found once I got into the design side of things (IRL work) that whilst you could put someone else's HW/SW in front of me and I could work it out down to the bare metal, asking me to build the same from a spec was a different matter - I quickly realised I just don't have the mindset. I did however find I did very well at evangelising technology, and it has served me well to date in several sales and marketing roles since. Now I know S&M is
  • if soda_ounces > 16 then Buyer.Terminate_Sale else Buyer.Allow_Sale
    // Here, I fixed that code.
    // It originally was Buyer.Terminate which led to several unfortunate incidents.

  • by afgam28 (48611)

    Maybe having everyone learn C or Java is a bit of a stretch. But one language that I think everyone (who works in an office setting) should learn is SQL, and maybe some analysis package like Matlab or R (but Excel is probably enough). It's amazing how much knowledge you can get about a business by analyzing even a small internal database.

    Today, managers don't want to learn how to manipulate data, and programmers don't want to understand the business that they're in. Most managers and programmers are unable

  • Or at least have the experience even if only to fail miserably at it. There's no faster remedy to delusions of the "A" for effort, "you did your best, that's what counts" crowd than to have your compiler parade your incompetence across your screen. No better wake up to the dreamers of realities that do not exist than application crashes and catastrophic data loss.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson

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