Are you a programmer or what?

In March 2022, Telegram overtook WhatsApp in terms of traffic in Russia. It is worth noting that the second brilliant brainchild of Pavel Valerievich Durov after VKontakte is multiplying its adherents with every passing day. The functionality of everyone’s favorite “cart” is expanding exponentially. Actually, this prompted the question, what is the secret of the success of this or that technological project? What is at the core, the genius of the creator or the skill of the team? Should the boss be able to code, given the fact that Durov, for example, is a philologist by education. In fairness, it should be noted that, while still a student, he created a lot of rather interesting Internet projects.

To code or not to code, that is the question…

Can you name the top five founders of technology companies who can’t program without Google? Steve Jobs comes to mind first. Yet? Jack Ma from Alibaba, Tatyana Bakalchuk from Wildberries, Fedor Ovchinnikov from Dodo Pizza, Andrey Krivenko from VkusVill. You can object, reasonably noting that a technology product and service company have fundamental differences, but with the share of digital technologies within each of the companies mentioned, it is hardly possible to be away from IT today. Or is it an erroneous stereotype?

In the book Programmers at Work on page 230 you can find an interesting interview with Jeff Raskin, creator of the legendary Apple Macintosh, regarding the personality of Steve Jobs and his contribution to the company’s early projects.

“Him [Джобса] never had any projects. He didn’t come up with anything concrete. WHO [Стив Возняк] developed the Apple II. Ken Rothmuller and the rest made Lisa. My team and I developed the Macintosh. Wendell Sanders made the Apple III. What did Jobs do? Nothing”.

It can be said that behind the above quote is only the dissatisfaction of the former hired manager with the genius of Jobs, but, you see, this is a rather exotic point of view.

To him echoes Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple:Steve never programmed. He wasn’t an engineer and didn’t do any original design, but he was technical enough to change, modify and add to other projects.“.

But what cannot be taken away from Jobs is the pursuit of visual perfection combined with brilliant marketing.

And what about Jeff Bezos? Does he know anything about programming? Definitely yes! Jeff graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1986 with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. Until early 1994, he worked as a Wall Street professional in various positions. Bezos was there developing networks for international trade. So at least he is able to code something in BASIC (just kidding).

In fact, Jeff Bezos, along with his original employees Shel Kafan and Paul Davis, did most of the work to create the Amazon site. Moreover, he put a lot of effort into creating the Alexa voice assistant and the Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Do smart speakers. So he knows exactly what Amazon has under the hood.

In the native Penates, there are no less examples. Creator of the social network Odnoklassniki Albert Popkovhead of Kaspersky Lab Evgeny Kaspersky, co-founder of Yandex Ilya Segalovich, Igor Sysoev from Nginx, all of them are united by a deep understanding of the features of the products created by them.

We highly recommend you check out with a lecture Ilya Segalovich. It is especially interesting to read about how programmers in the early 2000s made their products based on printed articles in foreign scientific journals. And separately about the relationship within the team.

Still, the team that we assembled was very algorithmic, it was about working with big data. It was about making artificial intelligence. I also, in a sense, relate to this company, although I have never had the appropriate education. But I have always had the audacity to consider myself a mathematician, perhaps because I once won an All-Union Olympiad in mathematics. Further, I did not study very well at the university, but I lacked impudence, and, in general, I always considered myself a mathematician.

Therefore, it somehow happened that I had people in my team who graduated from the Mekhmat, VMK, and I led them all impudently. Not only led, the word “led” does not fit. Communicated, how to put it. That is, I understood them, they understood me.“, – noted Ilya Segalovich.

Why speak languages?

Returning to the topic, should a leader be able to program if, it would seem, he is not a programmer, but a manager? Indeed, in fact, his task is to manage people, make decisions, and not code! In short, yes, minimal programming knowledge is definitely needed, because, in the end, he is responsible for decisions made, general management of technology projects and interaction with people.

Among the arguments in favor of “coding” than “not coding” are the following:

  1. Understanding the internal technological aspects of project implementation.

  2. Interaction and communication with the team.

  3. Improving project efficiency by understanding the specifics.

  4. The ability to make optimal decisions due to the presence of specific knowledge.

  5. Self-development, especially if you are not a business owner, but a hired manager who is ready for career growth.

We asked the IT leaders of M.Video-Eldorado for their opinion:

Alexander Sokolovsky, CIO: – Permanent practical experience in development is extremely important and useful. Moreover, I believe that if you are a CIO, you should still not lose your technological skills. Otherwise, there is a risk of quickly “technologically” becoming dumb. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to do real programming in our product teams. They say, “Go ahead and lead. But I have my repository in Github (https://github.com/amsokol), where I regularly experiment with something and do it for myself.

Andrey Revyashko, CTO Fintech: – I believe that knowledge of the basics of programming, and even deeper immersion in the topic, is the key to the successful development of any technological project. You will definitely be able to explain to the team what you want from people and, if necessary, even demonstrate the MVP. You will not look like an alien, and colleagues will stop talking to you in bird language.

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