We’ve all heard the throwaway advice, “Learn to code.” But it turns out that may actually be a pretty good idea for many professionals. No longer solely the domain of developers, coding is a practical way to get ahead in multiple career paths, since so much of the world now relies on technology. With the growing field of no-code and low-code tools, a basic grounding in coding principles can boost careers across a variety of industries.
But there’s more to tech proficiency than coding, and professionals in every industry would do well to get up to speed on the knowledge, skills and trends that are coming to dominate the tech-forward workplace. As IT industry experts, 14 Forbes Technology Council members share their best advice for people seeking to boost their careers in today’s tech-inclined world.
1. Study product management.
I recommend everyone become familiar with or take a class on product management. While coding is helpful, product management is now the hub of every department in a company. The product-management team dictates what gets coded. They hear from customers about what features are needed, they work with marketing to explain the product to the public and they work with finance to forecast projections. – Rami Essaid, Finmark
2. Turn your attention to users and stakeholders.
Learn to understand your users and stakeholders—what are their roles and workflows, how do they use technology and how do they want to use technology? Too often tech people jump into technology and fail to ask questions such as, “How could software help you get your job done?” or “What’s the one thing about this app that slows you down that we could fix for you?” – Brian Reed, NowSecure Mobile
3. Learn to read and understand code.
In many cases in a tech-inclined world, being able to read and understand code could be very valuable. At our company, we have project engineers who help customers learn to use and leverage a particularly technical software product. Some of them have found that reading parts of the code helps them understand how it works and how to use it effectively. – Chuck Grissom, Optricity Corporation
4. Focus on business outcomes.
Focus on the business outcomes technology can create. Why? The future will be low-code. Low-code technology is a new approach for building business applications at speed. With a low-code platform, you won’t need to code line by line—people with no coding skills will have the capability to develop powerful new applications simply and intuitively. – Hector Roldan, McKinsey & Company
5. Understand the limits and capabilities of your IT systems.
The advice “learn to code” is missing the forest for the trees. Not everyone needs to become a programmer. It’s more important to understand the limits and capabilities of the IT systems you’re working with and to think strategically. Being able to truly understand your customers and what is driving them is a far more important skill than learning to code. – Corey Jaskolski, Synthetaic
6. Become customer-obsessed.
Turning ideas that matter to customers into deliverables that make a difference is one part passion, one part persistence and one part innovation. So always apply your coding knowledge with a growth mindset directed toward better serving those always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied customers. The ability to run and reinvent in the digital age depends on it. – Christopher O’Malley, Compuware Corporation
7. Hone your problem-solving skills.
Coding is a skill that can be taught in many different ways, but problem-solving is the art that separates coders from great engineers. Start by learning logic, problem-solving and algorithms, and then go on to programming itself. Start from a foundational language so you understand how computers and compilers work—that will be an invaluable skill in becoming a star programmer. – Bruno Guicardi, CI&T
8. Find a discipline that best suits your strengths and interests.
I would never recommend everyone learn to code, because that might not be someone’s strength. Trying to learn to code could take years from their actual career that they could be spending focused on what works with their intellect. The best piece of advice I can give is that tech is changing the world—there are many disciplines you can attack, so choose what you feel matches you best. After that, make history! – Isaiah Nathaniel, Delaware Valley Community Health
9. Be open to embracing new ideas and taking risks.
To prepare their organizations for the future and position themselves to emerge from the pandemic in a stronger, better position, tech execs need to be open to new ideas. They must be willing to take risks, fail fast and move on. – Meerah Rajavel, Citrix
10. Learn how to ‘tell’ a machine to produce a result.
Coding is the new typing! Once upon a time, typing was a very specialized skill. Nowadays, everyone working in a professional setting is expected to know how to type. Coding will eventually be like this. You don’t have to be an expert, but you should know how to “tell” a machine to produce a result. I tell all students, no matter their degree, to take an accounting class and take a coding class. – Mike Frey, Yellow Basket, LLC
11. Understand how software is built, operated and defended.
Software runs the modern enterprise, and coding is just one aspect of creating software applications and systems. With less native code being written and an increasing dependency on third-party “stuff,” it’s more important that technical folks understand how software is built, operated and defended. These skills will be handy given that software’s tentacles reach into almost every business function. – Ed Adams, Security Innovation
12. Get a grounding in AI.
Artificial intelligence will impact much of your life. Not everyone needs a doctorate in AI, but everyone should have a basic understanding so they can separate hype from fact. My go-to recommendation is the free online course Elements of AI, developed by the University of Helsinki. It provides a good grounding in the history and future of AI to help you leverage it in your organization. – David Vasko, Rockwell Automation Inc.
13. Brush up your project management and listening skills.
Nowadays, before I would tell someone to learn to code, I would recommend they learn how to manage projects and be better listeners. These are skills that can be used in every aspect of their life and in any industry. – Elaine Montilla, The Graduate Center, CUNY
14. Discover your passion.
To truly thrive you need to love what you do enough for it to consume you—for you to be truly obsessed with that specific focus. It becomes your passion, and your passion is felt by the consumers of what you produce. Whether it’s technology, customer service excellence or something else, all focuses are useful, and the upper echelon of talent within each focus is incredibly valuable to any organization. Supply meets demand. – Gary Simat, Performive