03 Dec Code as a Second Language
The number of multilingual people in our society is on the rise. Learning a new language opens up new possibilities and opportunities, develops cross-cultural connections, and helps individuals gain a better understanding of the world, among other things. Not everyone who studies a new language gets to the point of native-like fluency, but even some knowledge of another language relevant to your life almost certainly improves the way you contribute to and operate in the world around you.
The Traditional Language of Business
The language of business has traditionally been thought of as accounting. It is through accounting that information about the performance of the company is communicated. The results of the activities of the company are expressed with the use of financial statements like income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. Business leaders have known for many years that they must, at the very least, have a basic understanding of the language of accounting in order to read the financial statements and extract meaningful information about past business performance.
How is Business Language Evolving?
Because the data in financial statements reports on things that have already happened, the ratios and statistics reported are referred to as lagging indicators. In other words, lagging indicators are typically output-oriented and designed to chart progress and tell the reader what has already happened. There is little opportunity to affect this information. As our business environment evolves, many leaders are now focusing less on lagging indicators that report on outputs and more on leading indicators, which focus on inputs. These are things like customer loyalty, employee retention, and processing efficiency. This information all helps us predict future performance.
If accounting is the language that leaders must understand in order to interpret data about outputs, what language is needed to understand data about inputs? It is difficult to find a business, service, or industry that is not touched in some way by technology. Technology drives many of the inputs that go into creating a product or service. We use programs and applications to help us create products, acquire customers, serve those customers, communicate with them, manage their payments, measure their satisfaction, and the list goes on and on.
The New Language of Business
And behind all of that technology is code. Code is basically the computer language that is used to develop the apps, websites, and software that we use every day. Though most people don’t understand the fundamentals of code, we rely on it to generate our business inputs every day. But creating inputs is only half the story, it is code that takes the almost incomprehensible amount of data that is generated in business every day and boils it down into manageable and meaningful information. All this makes it more critical than ever for business leaders to learn to code. There are many different programming languages, including Java, C#, and Python. The great news is that you don’t need to become an expert engineer to reap the benefits of understanding the fundamentals of code. New technology platforms are making integrations and business workflows even more accessible. Understanding the fundamentals of code helps you exploit the power of platforms like Zapier, a tool that lets you connect the web apps you use and automate tedious tasks.
And, there are other advantages to understanding the fundamentals of code.
- Stretching your mind. Bill Gates said “Learning to write programs stretches your mind, and helps you think better, creates a way of thinking about things that I think is helpful in all domains” . Understanding code will open your mind to a new world of possibilities and give you a new lens through which business problems can be solved.
- Communication. Knowing the fundamentals of coding will help business leaders communicate with their technology staff and partners. It’s difficult to have meaningful conversations when everyone doesn’t speak a common language. Understanding code will close, or at least significantly reduce, the knowledge gap because you will be able to speak to the technologies rather than just trying to explain what the end product should look like.
- Understanding your business. Leaders who are armed with at least a basic level of coding knowledge gain a deeper understanding of both risks and opportunities surrounding technology in their business much more quickly than those who don’t know how to code.
- Improved critical thinking. Because coding involves communicating with a computer, in order to succeed you must break problems down and order your thoughts in a logical, structured way. This way of thinking sharpens critical thinking skills that can be applied in other areas by allowing you to find solutions in a whole new way.
Carly Zakin and Danielle Weinberg, founders to theSkimm, said in an interview in late 2015 that the number one thing they wish they had known before starting their business was how to code. And they are certainly not alone in their way of thinking. Coding is quickly becoming a necessary core skill. Programming will continue to become more critical to the success of a company, which means that leaders will continue to hire more and more employees with coding skills. The leaders who know how to code will have invaluable knowledge to use in both communicating with their workforce and understanding their business inputs, which will provide a competitive advantage for years to come.