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Do Project Managers Need to Know How to Code?

August 5th, 2016

Do Project Managers Need to Know How to Code?

Yes and No. In short, it depends on what your role is and what your area is. That being said, the trends overall show that if you are a solid manager and are ready to amp up your skills, you may just be ready to learn how to code too.

The Roles may have the same title but are changing in function. Consider what the popular time management and workflow tool Wrike writers from their Outcollaborate Blog have to say about leadership, what’s changed and what hasn’t:

The fundamentals of leadership haven’t changed. You lead by example, you inspire team members to do their very best work, you communicate well and often. However, the circumstances surrounding our work are constantly changing. Remote/global workforces, offshore outsourcing, and an unrelenting tide of technology and tools have changed the way we work, and the skills needed to manage our teams. Wrike

Here are some questions to help you sort through whether the next item in your checklist should be learning how to code.

Do you work with a digital content in your organization?  Yes? Okay, so if you’re a project manager and you deal in digital, it’s probably going to only help you to learn how to code.

Some project managers come from design or development backgrounds, but more often than not, they have little training in the world of digital. As someone who comes from a design and development background, here are some tips and must-have skills that will make your team love and respect you. Hubspot

Hubspot highlights the advantages that learning how to code bring to the project manager working with digital content. Wouldn’t you love to…

  • Gain efficiency with front-facing languages like HTML and CSS?
  • Learn how to edit/write HTML will help your designers and developers in a pinch?
  • Develop perspective on what your digital content can actually do?
  • Go beyond what others have done and innovate solutions that inspire and delight?
  • Save cost and time in projects?

Check out more details on just how learning how to code can help you gain these skills from this Hubspot article.

Are you driven by understanding problems rather than just finding a way to solve them? This may sound like a strange question. Who wouldn’t want to solve a problem? And isn’t part of solving problems understanding them? The problem with learning how to code is that many project managers have bought into the idea that learning how to code will solve all their problems. Here’s the flaw with that thought process.  

Focusing on coding inflates the importance of finding the “right” method to solve a problem rather than the importance of understanding the problem. Before we start working on a solution to a coding problem, we must device what the problem is—and if it’s truly a problem. If we let ourselves become fixated on how to solve a problem via code, regardless of it if it is a programming problem or not, and lose sight of why, we gain nothing. Techcrunch

Do you work in the tech sector? This is almost a no-brainer, but with evidence to support it, it’s a question not to overlook. Because learning how to code is a glitzy skill, perhaps even one romanticized by Silicon valley, managers across industries are curious about whether or not they should brush up on what they know. Or simply take a course to get acquainted with the lingo.

Well, the Harvard Business Review conducted a survey from two years of HBS students who had taken introductory computer science courses to learn how helpful this course was to them in their jobs after graduation.

Here are the responses that were submitted (24 of the 41 submitted responses) to the question “Was taking CS50 worth it for you?”

  • Of the 18 survey respondents who founded a startup, joined an existing startup, or went to work for a big tech company upon graduation, 83% answered “yes” to the question,
  • 17% said “not sure.” Of these 18 respondents, none said that taking CS50 was not worth it.
  • By contrast, of the six respondents who pursued jobs outside of the tech sector — say, in consulting or private equity — only two said CS50 was a worthwhile investment; three said it was not; and one was not sure. Harvard Business Review

In sum, if you are a project manager working with a good amount of digital content and in a tech company, everything points to the advantages of learning how to code. If you are looking for a “get-out-of-debt-free-card” however, learning how to code may be quite the disappointment and struggle for you.

You have to take the time to build your understanding of the field. You have to become comfortable with the fact that you are a problem-solver and not simply a “fill-in-framework-here” developer.

Learning how to code is a great skill to add to your resume, but keep in mind that just as you learn it, another one may supplant the one you just picked up. So here is the last question we will leave you with.

Are you ready to pick up and start all over again and learn how to use a new code tomorrow?

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