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June 26, 2019

CEO with Technical Knowledge Is Unstoppable - Here's How to Become One



As detailed by Leigh Gallagher in her book “The Airbnb Story”, one of the founders of any tech company should be a technical wizard — this is what the masterminds of the Silicon Valley venture capital expect when you’re trying to pitch to them your new killer app. This founder would be responsible for all technical aspects of the company, but would also serve as the company mascot, as other founders parade them from one presentation to the next.



However, our experience tells us that any CEO can greatly benefit from technical knowledge. To clarify: the term “technical knowledge” does not mean absolute proficiency in programming, engineering, or mathematics: instead, it covers your ability to understand how certain technical systems work — and solve related problems. In this article, we will examine how this kind of knowledge can help you improve your company and how to acquire this knowledge.

Not Everyone Should Code… for a Living

In today’s world of rapid technological advancements, the “everyone should code” craze is ever so vivid: countless online courses are encouraging people to abandon their jobs and “start making real money coding”. This misunderstanding comes from seemingly high salaries in the IT sphere: people see programmers write code and get paid a lot of money for that and they think “I should do that too!” In reality, professions like software engineers, programmers and consultants are difficult and oftentimes quite stressful — so coding should be left to coding professionals.

Still, understanding how the day-to-day systems that you use every day actually work is really important. Many technologies which seemed sci-fi-ish only a decade ago are now used to improve hiring strategies. Technology is all around us, so technical literacy can really help us become even more productive and effective. For many businesses, technological platforms like social media, cloud storage, and web servers are essential to operating effectively, so it makes sense to try and get an understanding of how these systems work. In our case, a good combination would be basic programming skills and basic online privacy awareness.

How It Makes You a Better CEO

You may be wondering: “How exactly can I benefit from these skills as a CEO?” The thing is, you don’t have to actually master these skills to boost your productivity and security — instead, you invest a number of hours and enjoy the incredible return on investment later. A good sign of technical knowledge is the fact that you’re reading this article right now — and that’s great!

A striking example of the technical background’s benefits is the CEO of our company — Nikita Bragin. As he interacts with tech professionals on a daily basis, technical knowledge is absolutely essential for him; but he also uses it to improve the company’s product and provide valuable insight that boosts our website’s SEO performance.

New perspective on your product

Even if your company is not a pure tech startup,  chances are, your product utilizes different technologies. The people responsible for making your product better come from different spheres and have different backgrounds: your lead developer may have one point of view, your sales manager another,  and your PR department may disagree with both of them. Still, the insights each of your team members provide are valuable — and so it's up to you to analyze which point of view holds more weight.

It’s well-known how important it is to look at your product with your customer’s eyes. With technical knowledge, you get an opportunity to look at your product from a different perspective: you start to see which limitations your product may have. A common bottleneck is website performance: if you’re in the e-commerce game, you should probably know that, according to Google, 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load. 3 seconds is all your product/website has! With this knowledge in mind, we can approach this situation and rethink the way our customers interact with our sales platform (whether it’s a website or a social media page)

Privacy and security

In the digital era of today, the phrase “Information is power” absolutely rings true. We understand this — but so do hackers, scammers, and various social engineers, all of them trying to use your private information for their own benefit. CEO’s private information holds the ultimate importance: should it be compromised, banking account credentials and business strategies are given to the hacker as they yell “Jackpot!”

This is a pretty grim picture for any leader who is passionate about their project — the essence of a great product is information, which can be stolen or leaked. Good news is: you don’t have to be an information security expert to guard yourself against the most common attacks — they usually try to attack either your email or mobile number, so we can focus on these aspects.

  • Security of work email: a good rule to follow is “One public email account, one private”. Via public account, you conduct all business communications and networking; this account is supposed to be visible to everyone, so storing important information there is not optimal. On the other hand, you use your private account to link and manage all social media accounts, servers, administration tools, and so on — with the caveat that only the people you trust know this account login. Hackers typically gain access to valuable information through compromised email accounts, so protecting yours is really important.
  • Security of mobile number: the same principle applies to your mobile numbers. Additionally, more and more services are starting to use mobile numbers for two-factor authentication, so nowadays your mobile number is arguably even more important than the email account.
  • VPN: a Virtual Private Network service allows for a more secure and private Internet browsing, preventing the information you send/receive from being read, manipulated, or stolen. A privacy-focused resource “That One Privacy Site” provides a great comparison of available VPN services.

To reiterate the idea of just how important information is, imagine this: one day, your competitors may think that your business has been doing good — too good, actually. Instead of improving their own product, they may decide that tampering with yours is better, so they try to make your website go offline via heavy traffic loads. This is called a DDoS-attack and it can lead to hours and days of website downtime, causing enormous money loss. To prevent this, you can establish good DDoS protection.

Productivity

Being an effective leader is often connected to building a great team and letting them tackle business problems — essentially, you automate the process of problem-solving. Same principle applies to technology — it’s meant to automate all of your mundane tasks, saving time to let you brainstorm more interesting problems.

A good example of a routine process would be budgeting and working with documents. Although many tech companies offer apps that automated money management (a few examples include: Mint, You Need a Budget, and Personal Capital), tailoring your own spreadsheets offers far greater functionality — and Google (News - Alert) Sheets/Docs can do exactly that. Google provides a great API (Application Programming Interface, a system you can use to interact with their product) detailing how to automate Sheets and Docs. The best thing about these products is crowdsourcing: over time, many users have created their own spreadsheets, templates, and strategies — and shared them with the community.

Becoming Knowledgeable: How-To

We’re sure that the advantages of being tech-knowledgeable sound convincing, so let’s examine how you can boost your technical skills. When choosing a programming language, we advise to go for Python: its simplicity and great automation solutions will prove useful for a beginner. Well, how do we learn it effectively? You may be tempted into buying the most expensive online course, but our experience tells us: in the programming community, many great learning opportunities are provided for free!

The book “Automate the Boring Stuff with Python” is a great free resource for solving your everyday problems: instead of forcing you to learn highly abstract computer science concepts, it encourages you to analyze which mundane tasks you could automate with Python — then provides you with a blueprint.

Python community contributes a great deal to helping people learn this language: online resources like FreeCodeCamp and YouTube (News - Alert) mentors like Corey Schafer and sentdex. Interestingly enough, the community-driven learning process can also be done offline: at Python meetups, you get the chance to meet with Python enthusiasts (both long-time coders and beginners), learn something new — and maybe even share your knowledge from other spheres! We also can’t overlook the social aspect of these meetups: they allow for great socialization and networking (you might just find the next “rockstar” developer for your company at such event). A quick google search “Python meetup <your city>” will net all the information you’ll need to attend the next meetup!


 A great CEO is proficient in many things and there’s no formula how to become one. But with this guide, you can improve your technical skills — and improve your company as well!

Author bio: Denis Kryukov is an author at Soshace, an online hiring platform that connects IT professionals and companies



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