Coding as a Super Power

Posted on Fri 24 April 2020 in Projects

My overall thesis for this piece is that trivial amounts of programming in non-engineering areas can lead to tremendous amounts of value. Additionally, I think we (including myself here as a part of the Technocracy) often forget about this. Too often, I think we forget that most of the population deals with horrid UIs, sending emails with attachments (Excel or Powerpoints) back and forth. Below, I’ll brainstorm a few options on easy ways programming can add value to different parts of the organization. Most of this is going to be inspired by Patrick McKenzie, whose writing I highly recommend.

Sales

The apparent win for sales would be CRM automation. If you’re a larger company, often there is a CRM tool that hooks in with Zapier, let alone the potential API. From there, having notifications flow into Slack, automatically send emails based on status in the pipeline (internally or otherwise).

One other idea that Patrick has mentioned before is the idea of using code as a hack for medium touch sales. There are automations during the process that you can write to assist the customers whenever they’re coming across a significant decision point. One area that dawned on me was in a school - imagine how much more powerful an advising program would be if students received an email during any noteworthy difficult time. These could be things like being halfway through a semester that features a tough math class or when the student is taking their first upper-division class. A programmer with a basic grasp of SQL could find most of these (select courses, fail rate, order by ascending), and with a two-week sprint could build out this infrastructure. Now imagine implementing that same idea with your business - emailing people who didn’t import data into your trial, for instance—such a powerful concept.

Marketing

Engineering for Marketing is an entire subdiscipline of itself; I particularly enjoyed McKenzie’s article on SEO for software companies. I would find your company’s example of this and implement it as soon as possible.

In my experience, workflow automation here is a significant pain point. Marketing is full of domain-specific web apps - being able to smooth out any of those bumps would be a solid win.

Recruiting

Patrick talks about this example - a case that I found appealing would be setting up automatic emails after six months with anyone who took another company’s offer. By signing it from someone who can make an actual change (or someone who can make something happen), who knows how many great recruits you’ll earn back once the shine has worn off the other company.

Another example that I’ve thought about is visiting colleges to look for interns. If you’re consistently not filling intern positions, why not stop by the local college for an hour and present a project that your team is accomplishing. After the presentation has concluded, mention that you’re looking for interns. Any student would leap at the chance to get domain-specific, paying knowledge. Hiring is a lot like sales in this way - it’s essential to keep a full pipeline. Current interns become future employees, and by vetting them as an intern, the overall hiring process became less intensive. (Stole this idea from Joel Spolsky)

Concluding thoughts

As technical individuals, I think we often forget how coding can add a tremendous amount of impact in a short amount of time. The amount of value here is exaggerated because those consuming the product don’t understand the ease of accomplishing this goal.

One danger that I’d point out is making sure that this situation is fully resolved. It’s easy to build, but more difficult to then maintain that project for the rest of your time at that company. I think that balance between tremendous impact and follow through is a fine one to strike, but important all the same.