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Today, every company is a tech company whose language is code

Treasure Valley business managers, owners and others can learn the basics of code at Trailhead Boise and in other programs. Game developer Markus Nigrin works at Trailhead in 2015.
Treasure Valley business managers, owners and others can learn the basics of code at Trailhead Boise and in other programs. Game developer Markus Nigrin works at Trailhead in 2015. doswald@idahostatesman.com

The “new economy” is now simply “the economy.” Technology is transforming every single industry, from law to retail to funeral planning.

While Trailhead, the nonprofit where I serve as executive director, focuses on helping Boiseans start companies and projects of all industries, virtually all our company founders see technology as critical to their ventures. From the startup ice cream company that uses social media to drive traffic to the van-rental company that manages bookings via its website, companies use technology to achieve efficiency and scalability.

From today forward, every company is a technology company.

The language of technology — and therefore of startups and the modern economy — is code.

Code gets a bad rap. Most of us see it as a highly technical and specialized skill, something for math geeks and computer nerds. But at its core, code is simply a set of instructions — a recipe — you give to a computer to do what you want.

You probably already know some code. When you type a colon and close-parenthesis to tell Facebook to create a smiley-face emoji, you’re writing a simple version of code. Those formulas in Excel? Also code.

Understanding the basics of code is an important skill for entrepreneurs, marketers, managers and others. With these skills, you can build a better website, uncover insights in mountains of data, or work more effectively with the more technical members of your team. If you want to go further, the only limitation is your imagination and knowledge.

The good news: Learning code is more accessible than ever. There are free online courses through national programs like code.org or local programs like Trailhead’s new Code School, which offers courses from beginning Wordpress to expert database management. There are part-time and full-time programs. Short-term and long-term courses. Classes for technical and nontechnical people.

Some use the skills they learn to change careers. Others do it simply to increase their knowledge.

It’s important. Just as English has become the default language of business globally, code is becoming a critical language of entrepreneurship. With code, you can move faster. The more you learn to do with code, the more opportunities you will have today and for years to come.

Raino Zoller, info@trailheadboise.org, is the executive director of Trailhead, which helps start and scale businesses and projects. This column appears in the December 21, 2016-January 17, 2017, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine as part of a special section on nonprofits. Click here for the Statesman’s e-edition, which includes Business Insider (subscription required).

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