Always Be Coding

Always Be CodingAlways Be Coding

I was watching the other day a YouTube video from Principal Engineer David Bytow (ex Google, Snapchat, Square, and who famously made $3M in 6 months with his first startup). In explaining what makes him a great engineer, he coined the "ABC" of "Always Be Coding". And I couldn't agree more. In fact, so many technical people, once they move up the career ladder, forget about coding. And there are so many project managers without any technical knowledge. To see why it's so important, let's dive in!

A Misguided View

The main reason why people who should still be coding (such as technical managers) or at least be familiar with it (such as project managers) don't do it anymore is because their responsibilities no longer include coding as their main task. They have to manage teams, roadmaps, budgets, discuss future projects, etc. So that's why they forget about coding in the first place. But is it really true that because coding isn't your main job anymore, you should give it up altogether? Absolutely not!

Understand What You're Managing

As you take on more responsibility in the tech industry, keeping up with coding isn't about being able to get code done. It's about being able to understand what you’re managing. It's about being able to understand the discussions, even technical ones, with the engineers. It's about developing an understanding of the project you're responsible for and the problems that are being solved. And it's about building a very strong and positive culture where everyone is fluent in technology.

Become a Strategic Thinker

In the technology industry, technology strategy is an integral part of business strategy. In fact, in many cases, technological developments drive new business strategies with opportunities that were not possible before. And being tech-savvy also helps keep your strategic thinking sharp.

By combining your high-level perspective with your technical knowledge, you'll be able to come up with strategies that are even more impactful.

Earn the Respect of Your Team

According to a study published by Harvard Business School, employees are happier when managed by someone who can do their job.

Indeed, many people have probably experienced the unpleasant feeling of being managed by someone who not only doesn't understand what they're doing, and worse, sometimes doesn't care, with a contemptuous "not my job" attitude.

You want to be the opposite, and knowing how to code will not only show your team that you understand what they're doing, but will also help you develop even greater empathy, both of which will earn you great respect from your team.

A Plan to Keep Coding

If you were an engineer in the past, you would easily know how to keep up with the technologies that are relevant in your organization, and as an engineering leader, coding should still be part of your job, at least 20% of the time, so you stay in touch and remain a hands-on leader. Focus on high value-added tasks such as implementing the groundwork for architectural decisions, doing POCs and spikes, experimenting with new technologies to see how they can drive business value for users, ...

As a project manager, if coding is new to you, it would be very beneficial to discuss this with a technical lead and schedule some regular meetings so that they can provide you with a high-level technical view of the project and point you to some relevant resources to help you become familiar with coding at your own pace. Also, when you're involved in team discussions, don't hesitate to ask clarifying questions about certain technical aspects from time to time, so that you can develop your understanding over time. If talking openly about your lack of technical knowledge makes you uncomfortable, rest assured that showing you're interested in what your team is doing will earn you far more respect than not doing so.


Staying familiar with coding as you progress in your technical career isn't about being able to do your old job – being an engineer – it's about being able to do your new job. It will allow you to be a much better technical leader or project manager. You'll have a strong understanding of what gets done and what the challenges are. It will sharpen your strategic thinking. You'll gain the respect of your team. And many more benefits. So take action now and stay in touch with how your team builds things!