“The last thing you want,” Ryan Cole tells Katie Johnston of the Boston Globe, “is to hand things off to other people and for something to be lost in translation.” Cole, a sales executive at software company Rakuten Loyalty (formerly FreeCause), recently began learning a new language: computer programming.
All 60 of Rakuten’s employees last year were required to learn basic coding. “The idea,” writes Johnston (@ktkjohnston), “is not to turn everyone into an engineer, but to give employees — from accountants to designers to salespeople — a better understanding of what goes into developing the company’s software.”
“There’s a pretty big divide between engineers and nonengineers . . . ,” Rakuten CEO Michael Jaconi notes. “I thought that this would facilitate more efficiency, bring teams closer together, and ultimately make our company perform better.” For starters, the firm’s meetings are shorter now that engineers no longer need to explain the ins and outs of programming.
Of course, not all companies sell software or digital services. But most businesses maintain a website or use some sort of internal application. So, although it may not make sense for you to require your entire team to learn to code, teaching your technology-facing employees the basics of programming could strengthen alignment.
That’s the experience of Mike Nicholson (@Miketheplanner), director of strategic planning at OgilvyAction, a branding arm of global advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather. Ogilvy offers a wide array of services, including television and print advertising. With digital and mobile ads on the rise, Nicholson decided to familiarize himself with the languages behind them. He explains to Build that, although his programming skills remain limited, his basic fluency in coding has helped him act as a better liaison between clients and Ogilvy’s developers.
“Just as it’s important for everyone in an agency to understand broadly how a press ad or a TV spot is produced, even if one doesn’t do that oneself, it’s important to have an appreciation of the capabilities and constraints of the digital channel,” Nicholson says. “It makes you better at your job and more valuable to your client and your agency.”
You know better than we do that your employees are busy. But computers play a massive role in business today. If you have employees working on teams involving digital technology, it may be worth the time investment to have them speaking the same language.
Another nice thing about training your employees—or even yourself—to understand code is that you can do it on the cheap and at your convenience. Codecademy, the service used by Rakuten, has taken the programming world by storm since its 2011 launch by offering free self-guided courses in various programming languages.