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How to Excel in Tech Without Learning to Code

How to Excel in Tech Without Learning to Code


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Technical literacy does not mean learning to code

People think about “being technical” in a binary way, there are software developers who know how to code, and there’s everyone else.

Being technically literate simply means that you’re comfortable with the basics of how technology works, and critically, you underst...

Useful and practical Technical literacy has two layers

  • The base: The basics of software and hardware.

 What’s a computer?

 What’s the internet?

 What’s a database?

  • The domain: Deeper knowledge that’s relevant to your job.

 What products are we building, selling, and...

The importance of working with and understanding software engineers.

If you work at a startup, chances are you’re going to need to collaborate with developers. That work could be internal on internal tools, integrations, providing expertise, etc. or it could be external marketing to, selling to, and recruiting developers


Product: Without understanding how software engineers work and the basics of what code they’re writing you’ll be looking at a black box. Effectively prioritizing feature work, keeping tight timelines, and aligning stakeholders are all predicated on understanding the work your de...

Marketing: Even if your product isn’t explicitly focused on developers, every startup eventually needs to build a developer program (see Slack and Twitter). Without technical literacy, marketers will be in the dark on how to effectively speak to and engage with this potentially l...

Technical literacy on the job: working with tools

The better you understand the software your team relies on, the more proficient you’ll be in it. This already happens naturally: teams that are large enough will usually have one “power user” who seems to know the ins and outs of Salesforce, Lever, or whatever your team runs on. You want ...

Technical literacy and integrations

The tools you use day-to-day integrate with other parts of your company’s stack. Lever job postings might be displayed on your marketing website with Lever acting as the CMS; Intercom might be pulling user-level data from your data warehouse.

Understanding them means the difference...

Being technically literate can often mean the difference between being self-sufficient and getting delayed by engineering resources. 

Start by taking a look at your company and your role, and where you think being more technical could give you an edge. Earlier we identified a couple of areas:

  • Understanding and working with developers
  • Being an expert at your toolchain

If you’re a m...

Find a developer friend or two

If you’re working in startups, you’re already surrounded by people who spend their entire days doing what you’re trying to learn a little bit about software.

In this arena, you’ll want to come prepared. Structured conversations with questions you’ve thought of in advance ar...

Get good at Google

There aren’t many places on the web with curated resources you can just read through so you’re going to need to be scrappy. The best content for explaining tech concepts sits in two places:

  • YouTube. It has a lot of garbage, but it can be a goldmine for...

Understanding how programming works, what a language is, and basic patterns like packages and version control will help you across the board:

  • You’ll have a concrete understanding of what developers actually do
  • You’ll be able to write simple scripts and work with tools to automa...

Once you’ve built your plan and started looking around the web for helpful content, you’ll likely come across some usual suspects in your particular field who are creating useful stuff. Follow them, A few examples:

  • Benn Stancil’s Substack on data strategy and tools
  • Corey Quinn’...

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