5 Reasons Entrepreneurs should learn to code

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In a typical startup environment, small teams with a broad and complementary skill sets come together to build a company. There are dozens of skills an entrepreneur must possess -from accounting and managing a profit and loss statement to marketing and business development. If your business leverages technology, learning to code should be added to the list of skills you need for success. Here’s why:

1. Speak the language of tech. Learning to code and work effectively with technology is like learning a new language. If you plan to spend a lot of time working with technology, you should understand the language of your new environment. If you moved to China to launch your business, wouldn’t you learn Mandarin and study some of the local customs? Tech is no different. If you understand the language of the tech ecosystem, your product and business decisions will be better informed.

2. Talent evaluation. For any startup that leverages technology (don’t they all?), hiring the right team is mission critical. Your hires will be one of the driving factors of success, and if you don’t understand what differentiates good and mediocre technical talent, you’re positioning your company for costly errors. If you know how to code, you’ll have a better understanding of what to look for in a talented developer or chief technology officer.

3. Product development. To build the next great web application, iPhone game or productivity app, you need passion, creativity, a great team and perhaps some special sauce. You also need to effectively schedule and manage projects. Having an understanding of the resources required (time and capital) and a firm grasp of the development timeline will help you and your tech teams build out a realistic product development pipeline.

Understanding digital product development and programming will help you relate to your tech teams, especially when they face the struggles and frustrations inherent to the development process. This empathy will manifest itself in mutual respect between management and development, leading to better morale, teamwork and, ultimately, productivity.

4. Getting your hands dirty. At a startup, resources are scarce and your tech teams are on tight deadlines and probably overworked. Rather than having to interrupt your tech team to make a small change to your website or update content in your app, you’ll have the ability and confidence to make a change without fearing a site shut down or interruption of business.

5. Critical thinking. In the early life of a startup, each decision, big or small, will have an impact on the business, so a CEO must be able to make good decisions under pressure. Strong critical thinking skills facilitate good decision making, and there is no better way to learn to think critically than by learning to code. As you think logically and algorithmically through the problems inherent in your project and turn them into objects, methods and control flows, you’ll break down the problem your business solves into the bite-size pieces you’ll reuse and rely on in the future.

Studies suggest that it takes 10,000 hours to develop mastery of a skill. As an entrepreneur, you probably don’t have that much time to learn to code. But proficiency is a much lower hurdle than mastery and being proficient in your coding skills will make you a better entrepreneur.

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5 ways to identify a senior developer

 

It is that time of the year again, performance reviews!. For team leads this is usually a stressful time especially if in your work environment you have different tiers of developers and even worse the tiers are attached different hourly rates. Think Junior, Intermediate, Senior with hourly of 25,35,60.

In this environment a good number of developers will want to rise up the ranks, how do you know who is deserving? What I present here are some behavior changes that are bound to happen as developers mature in their craft. Watch out for them and reward the deserving.

Under promise, over deliver

The mark of a new developer is enthusiasm. Don’t dare kill that energy, it is what the dev will need to survive the perils of learning programming.

When you ask them if they can do it, the answer will always be a solidYES and of course it can be done in a week, it’s just a payment module right? For Project Managers out there you know it never takes a week.

As they mature you will begin to note a tendency for more careful evaluation. The developer will scarcely commit to features or schedules without first doing some research. Even then, what they will commit to will rather be tame. Yet you know they will deliver. What actually happens is that they more than deliver, they delight.

No longer gurus

While the junior developers know that esoteric language feature, they will not likely understand the basics of a programming paradigm other than the one they live in.

The senior likely knew of that feature a long time ago but years of disuse may have pushed it to the edge of the mind or even forgotten. Their code uses common features arranged in simple ways. They have understanding of trade-offs they are making by working with their current paradigm.

No superheroes here

It takes a special kind of person to wrestle with the machine hour after hour chasing down bugs and solving hard problems late into the night. The skills of the junior are just what is needed to do just that. The junior will boast of the number of commits made and their 365 day streak on github.

It is natural to expect that the senior will have now mastered how to even double the time spent on this coding marathons. Yet what you find is that the seniors are actually, for a lack of a better word, boring. They may not even seem to be working that hard!

Yet results come in steady.

Beyond the keyboard

The junior is actually proud of their poor social skills. They will brag of being the smartest kid in the room. Their super human typing skill is the hallmark of their achievement.

A senior on the other hand will have a rich tapestry of skills extending from coding, user experience, design, project management and mostly important people skills.

Ian Landsman goes so far as to proclaim code is only 5% of the business 10 tips for moving from programmer to entrepreneur

Visibility

I will be done when am done if there is ever a defining quality of a junior developer, that is it! The mindset of the junior is grounded on big revelations. They will work tirelessly and at the end unveil this great product which everyone will love and they will be the king of the world.

When working with seniors, you will quickly realize they hold no such delusions of grandeur. They understand for most part that the way to build a great product is to discover what that great product is. You will have great visibility as the project goes on and even better opportunities to provide feedback.

Obviously this is not a comprehensive view of what makes a great senior developer, how has the experience been in your own organization?

 

Tech Week Brings Nairobi Techies Together

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From April 27-30, Moringa School powered the largest tech event in Sub Saharan Africa – Nairobi Tech Week. With support from Twitter Developer Platform, Angel Hack, iHub, iLab (at Strathmore University) and Nest.vc, we were able to power an incredible event that brought together over 400 people in the course of four days.

The tech ecosystem in Kenya is growing rapidly, judging from the attendance and enthusiasm of Tech Week participants. Attendees were from all walks of life – from CTO’s to students. NTW’s various activities kept attendees busy all day long as no one wanted to miss any of the sessions.

The event brought together a diverse blend of local and global leaders in the tech community, in addition to students, senior developers, professors and CTO’s from various companies.

The sessions were informative and inspiring to attendees, many of whom said they would like to see these events more often. Entrepreneurs discussed how to incorporate tech in their start-ups. Students in tech-related disciplines got career advice. Job-seekers met with potential employers during the networking sessions.

“It was engaging and fun, and a networking experience that I enjoyed being part of,” said Cornelius Ngondo, a Mobile and Web Developer.

Panelists of the various sessions shared useful information and responded to all attendee questions. There was even time for attendees to freely interact with people they would never normally meet, like CTO Reg Orton of BRCK.

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The Angel Hack Hackathon was one of the major attractions, with hackers from all over Nairobi working on their code to win the coveted $10,000 prize in the #SmartCityNairobi Challenge. Report Taka emerged as the first ever winner of the Angel Hack Hackathon in Africa.

The Twitter API session was another crowd-puller. Developers learned that with fabric.io kits, using the Twitter API is more simplified and enables developers to develop apps faster since tracking of the app usage is in real time.

“We thank Moringa School and iHub together with the Twitter Developer Platform for this one-of-a-kind event. I have learned so much and I hope to put it in practice soon,” said Juanitah Mutinda  an IT student at  USIU.

Overall, 22% of the panel speakers at NTW were women. Hopefully we will see an increase in this number when the next event is organized, and more women will be encouraged to go into tech.

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As Kelly Shalk of Twitter Developer Platform said, “What moved me most was what everyone at the conference shared in common: a belief and willingness to change the world for the better using technology. Our team was inspired and impressed with the 37 projects that came from #SmartCityNairobi Hackathon, which used Twitter’s API to do just that for the city of Nairobi.”

Nairobi Tech Week is set to be a yearly event that will help improve the tech space in Kenya and encourage more people to get involved with the community.