This Saturday the 2nd of April, I will be enrolling the Ironhack Web Development program, in its part-time format. It spans six months: two afternoons during the week and the whole Saturday, accounting for more than 400 hours of accelerated learning.
Despite it is not as intense as the full-time format, the goal remains the same: turn you into a full fledged digital builder, with the abilities to develop web applications by yourself, but at the same time, embracing best practices and learning the underlying principles behind digital products.
As a campus manager, my daily tasks at Ironhack are far away from technical endeavors. My role consists in managing and inspiring the team, but also ensuring we are delivering on our promise of providing the best possible educational experience.
The main difference with our flagship, full-time, bootcamp program — that has already trained more than 500 people with outstanding results, is the part-time format has been specifically designed for people who is currently employed. The materials team has done an outstanding job structuring all the contents in a way that can be digested, but demanding enough so you can still feel the strain that comes with these intense programs.
I have put a lot thought into this decision. We all run busy lives, and it is definitely a huge challenge on top of anybody who already has a challenging job. I acknowledge that going through this experience will inevitably imply saying no to a lot of things, and despite I’ve been told otherwise several times, I am profoundly convinced that enrolling is the right call.
In this post I will explain why I decided to join, and why I firmly believe that everybody in a managing position, technical or not, should join, too.
My Role at Ironhack
As a campus manager, my daily tasks at Ironhack are far away from technical endeavors. My role consists in managing all aspects of Ironhack’s operations here in Barcelona while executing on the company mission. At the end of the day I find myself not only managing and inspiring the team, but also ensuring we are delivering on our promise of providing the best possible educational experience.
All of this translates into sales, business development, planning and executing marketing actions, leading hiring processes, ensuring we have an awesome work environment, and representing the Ironhack brand by interacting with students and other ecosystem partners. In other words, I’m kind of the last responsible for Ironhack’s success here in Barcelona, but as you can see, there is no coding involved.
Therefore, the legitimate question to ask here would be: “how come learning how to code, will help you succeed at your job, since there’s no coding required at all?”
Alignment With the Company Vision
I deeply believe that in order to achieve greatness, no matter what your job title is, you must understand, embrace and align yourself with the company vision. It might sound abstract, but I have come to realize that for a company to be successful in a market, for an employee to thrive within a company, and in most facets of life, the alignment with the bigger picture is always a prerequisite for success.
Markus Leyendecker — Harvard MBA student and also Ironhack alumni, has already done an amazing job explaining this issue. As he points out in his article Pre-bootcamp: Why would a future Harvard MBA learn how to code? the understatement of the building blocks of your business is key for anybody that attempts to lead any team or company.
If one accepts the hypothesis, that companies, which are at-heart digital, will continue to outgrow the competition, one should realize why I want learn to code. It follows a very basic logical chain: Everyone working at a company should be able to understand what the company is best at: selling the right product to its customer segment. For instance, one would think that a Boeing CEO would understand, at least much better than a CEO from another industry, how an airplane works and which steps of the value chain Boeing excels at.
I could not agree more. But as devil's advocate one could argue that if a company is not competing in the software industry, and say it is selling razor blades, then code should not be a lever for success. Which brings us to the second point: that software is becoming a transversal discipline.
As I already pointed out in The Rise of the Hybrid Profile, programming is not only for programmers any more. Instead, it is starting to permeate across all industries, changing the way we interact with products and how customers want to be reached in order to deploy effective marketing actions.
All the components involved in the creation, distribution and sale of a digital product are, in some way, influenced by the same digital ingredient: code. For this reason, the ones who acknowledge this situation and learn the fundamental principles underlying digital products, will inevitably have a considerable advantage when having to deal with this new breed of products.
What this excerpt from my article conveys is that we should approach each market, business or product, from a more holistic perspective. Meaning that despite certain end products will remain hardware based, its surroundings: distribution, marketing, operations and ultimately, the customer experience, will be profoundly affected by the digital transformation that lies ahead.
Going on with the razors analysis, the only player that comes to mind that is growing like a rocket, curiously enough, is Harry’s. The blueprint for how to enter a mature, saturated market, leveraging technology in order to enhance the customer experience. Harry’s is not a software company, but I would bet that employs plenty of software engineers and their digital strategy is core to understand their success.
Earn Their Success: Speak Tech
The conclusion that derives from this premise is clear: as a manager you will be dealing with software issues at some point. That might come in the flavor of the project that you are working on or it may be the core competence of your team. Either way you will need to prove that, at least, you have the slightest clue of what you are actually managing.
After more than five years involved in product at tech companies, I have seen plenty of issues such as PMs not respected by engineering because they did not have technical chops, or marketers who were literally mocked for not understanding how something worked. Believe me, as a manager, it is a harsh situation to overcome.
We have drawn some kind of line between tech and non-tech, placing more value to the former by default. As a manager, this is a harsh situation to overcome.
I am not saying this is a good thing, but we have drawn some kind of line between tech and non-tech, placing more value to the former by default. If you want to earn the respect of your peers and make informed decisions you will need to understand how stuff works, and the only way is playing by their own rules.
Management entitles lots of things. But at the end of the day you will find yourself making key decisions and you want to do that through the eyes of every person in your team, even better, through the eyes of the company as a whole. You will be setting the table on behalf of a lot of people, and you will only earn their respect you if you know what you are talking about.
Why Am I Doing This?
In my particular case, first of all, I am doing this because I want to experience first hand what it is like to go through our Bootcamp. I think it is not fair that I am rooting for a product that I have never experienced. I have repeatedly seen how we are helping our students pivot their careers and ultimately turning them into digital makers. I know it is amazing and I know it works, but I don’t know what it is actually like to be there.
Therefore, from an evangelist perspective, I am absolutely convinced that by fully understanding the experience not only I will improve my ability to communicate why somebody would benefit from learning how to code. But also get insight and make a better case for who we might be solving a problem to, but we still don’t know it.
From the inside I hope it will help me better relate to the student experience and have informed conversations with them, as we were discussing before, it is like speaking their language. Because I would be able understand what they are going through, I will have a better chance when it comes to earn their respect. And looking into the future, having this shared connection can also be a great way to create stronger bonds that will help enhance the collaboration with our alumni community.
I have repeatedly seen how we are helping our students pivot their careers and ultimately turning them into digital makers. I know it is amazing and I know it works, but I don’t know what it is actually like to be there.
I also expect to gain credibility from the team, mostly in the academic side. Because I would be able to analyze the full scope of every decision I make for the campus, from the layout of the desks, the acoustics of the room to the number of TAs we will need for the next cohort. Only by having a better comprehension of the market, the product, the team and everything in between, I will make the right calls and earn the respect of my peers, by being able to speak their language.
Again it is about understanding and aligning yourself with the company vision, only then you will be in the position to achieve greatness. Learning how to code is a prerequisite to comprehend the full scope of your company, in education, technology or razor blades. Then that’s the ultimate reason why I am going to learn how to code and why you should, too.