CEOs who code
20 years ago when I started my first company, I wrote code. (Quickbasic and Turbo Pascal – nothing fancy.) In fact, my partner sold our products and I developed them, for about the first 4 years. As our company grew, we hired developers and I haven’t really written code since. (I did a little bit of HTML a few years back but in all my companies have relied on employees who were much better coders than I was.)
I’m feeling rusty. And today, for the first time in years, as I watch my team of engineers get really excited about all the things in the FamilyLink product roadmap, I also started feeling envious. I loved writing programs, testing them, and running them. There’s an amazing feeling of satisfaction when you build something that works – and better yet, something that is used by thousands of people.
Of all the hats I’ve ever worn, the only one where I ever felt “done” with work, was when I did accounting for Infobases, again back in the early days, using Quickbooks of course. When you closed out a month, your work was actually done, and that brought a nice feeling of satisfaction. But as CEO or VP Marketing, and in most other roles I’ve had, you are never done, because there are always a million more things you could be doing.
Writing code is kind of in-between. You know what is required, you write the code, you test it, it works, and you’re kind of done. You always know that there is another iteration or version just around the corner, but you do get a feeling of satisfaction when the program works as designed. Even if the next features are already on the drawing board.
I recently read that Mark Zuckerberg has always loved coding, but even he has given it up recently, according to VentureBeat, to focus on company culture and strategy. From what I have heard, the fact that he is a coder and hired coders created an amazing culture at Facebook.
I have always felt Bill Gates was an amazing CEO because he mastered both programming and business. And I think it is hard in a high-tech company, to be a successful CEO if you only master one of those two things. There will be things that a non-technical CEO will never understand.
Can you think of any CEOs who still code, and who claim that it helps them be a more effective CEO?