Why Everyone Should Be Code-Literate

Posted Sep 25th, 2012

Here at Sauce, we encourage all new hires to get their hands onto some code on their first day (or at least their first week) of work. This may seem obvious for developer hires, but the principle applies to any new person we bring on board, whether he or she is filling a sales, marketing, or support role. We do this for one simple reason: We believe it’s in the best interest of our company and our users to have as many “code-literate” employees as possible. There are a few reasons for why we do this:

Good Ideas Come from All Departments

Sauce Labs provides a product that allows developers to automate the test and deployment process. It’s built by developers, for developers. But many of our best ideas have come out of marketing, finance, sales, and support personnel. The line between technical and nontechnical is becoming increasingly blurry these days, particularly when you’re building a developer-focused company. Roles that were once reserved for non-devs - such as sales and marketing - are now being filled by more technically-inclined people. That’s why having at least a basic familiarity with code allows our employees to be well-rounded contributors to the team in just about any capacity. When a new hire comes aboard, we set them up with a development environment - regardless of whether they were hired as a developer. We encourage them to build fun apps and run tests. When they get stuck, we encourage developers to take the time to help them out. For a startup, this provides immense value.

The New Literacy

The standards for literacy in the job market evolve over time. For most of human history, reading and writing was something done by specialists - often monks and scribes. As late as the early 20th Century, the average job probably didn’t require that you know how to read and write. But by the 1950s, that was changing. Reading and writing became necessary for many new jobs - an ordinary activity. The new specialists were those that could type - often typists and secretaries. By the 1990s, typing was commonplace. Today, developers are specialists, but that may be changing. Software is eating the world. In 2012, it’s possible for people who don’t know anything about database schemas or MapReduce to get jobs in technology companies. Will that be the case in 2022 or 2032? Is the ability to manipulate code to do one’s bidding going to become as commonplace as writing or typing or excel spreadsheets someday? It’s hard to imagine coding being as common as writing in the next decade - after all, it’s taken over 4,000 years of human history to get where we are today with writing. But it’s not hard to imagine that the ability to program will open doors to people just as the ability to work with computers opened them in the 1990s. Here at Sauce, we want to leverage the benefits of this new literacy.

A New Way of Thinking

Another reason we encourage non-developers to get their hands on code is that it teaches you a new way of thinking. A basic familiarity with programming concepts can help our team see inefficiencies that can be corrected. It makes one more likely to automate repeatable processes. More than anything, it teaches a new way of organizing your thoughts and solving problems.

A Culture of Builders

Not every employee at Sauce is an expert programmer or is even expected to be. But we are building a team that gets energized at the command line. Everyone at Sauce is interested in building innovative products, and learning to code is a key piece of that process.

Written by

Jack Moxon


Software Testing