Should you learn to code?

3 min read

If you’re in marketing or public relations, do you need to code and program software?

The answer is no. Yet, in this day and age it is best if you do know these things. I am not saying you should know how to design a full featured software or build a website from scratch (but if you can I am very happy to meet you and please leave a comment below so I can say hi!).

Knowing how the web works can help you find new opportunities to integrate content and social media, to think up new and exciting strategies for clients or your own brand. It can even be a way for you to save valuable time and resources in order to get an interesting project off the ground or deploy a decent campaign for your small business.

This is not about knowing how to setup IFTTT or Buffer. It’s about being able to build your own site, fix occasional glitches on a blog’s html (even if just in the article) or figure out ways to get the computer to do the work for you.

For example, when I teach about social media and crisis communication I always mention how being able to start a blog at a moment’s notice can be a great asset. Do you want to depend on your development team for that on a saturday night when the client is on the other end of the line?

I know a bit about programming and it is useful every day. It can be about building a webpage or code a newsletter. It can also be something like building a small script to collect data for me and save it as an excel spreadsheet. Skills that I picked up mostly from reading Lifehacker and specially the articles written by Gina Trapani.

Knowing about new technology and open source software helps me suggest campaigns or alternative routes. There are a few examples of this at The Labs.

Stepping up a level

What I don’t know very well is how to design a piece of software. Sure, I have made things that work. What I want to know now is how to plan features and how those features should work together, how to do something from scratch if I have to. This means taking a few steps back and learning the basics.

I asked Bruno Abrantes and he suggested a few online courses and tools:

Recommended by João Neves:

If you want something fun and easy to try out, I suggest Codecadamy. There is also a nice introduction to Ruby and the Ruby on Rails framework called Rails for Zombies that is worth checking out.

A small update

João Mamede pointed out to me this article at Coding Horror – Please don’t learn to code. Feels too extremist but I empathise and agree with some of his arguments. Especially:

Please don’t advocate learning to code just for the sake of learning how to code. Or worse, because of the fat paychecks. Instead, I humbly suggest that we spend our time learning how to …

  • Research voraciously, and understand how the things around us work at a basic level.
  • Communicate effectively with other human beings.
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