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digibyte: Labor Day Musing - how many coders are there in your C-suite?

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy September 7, 2015
How much technical literacy is required in the C-suite these days? Try measuring against some of the most financially successful businesses in the world.

diginomica likes to think of itself as the business led parsing mechanism that takes tricky and sometimes unfathomable technology topics and converts them to language the business technology buyer understands. It works quite well most of the time but there are occasions when you just have to get down and dirty with the geek speak stuff. The problem with that is very few C-suite folks have any idea what technology is really about.

Start talking about data binding or dependency injection and the geek squad will know exactly what you mean. The C-suite? Not so much. But then the same is true of any functionally specific language - in my case as an accounting type, hanging debits and DCF.

The bigger problem is that a lack of technology understanding in today's technology driven world might lead to disadvantage. Think I'm talking nonsense? Try this:

As Steven Kaplan, of the University of Chicago, and Joshua Rauh, of Stanford, pointed out in a recent paper, the top 25 hedge fund managers in 2010 raked in four times the earnings of all the CEOs of the Fortune 500 combined.

What are those 25 people doing?

Essentially, the business of a hedge fund is to trade. James Simons, the founder of Renaissance Technologies, ranks fourth on Institutional Investor’s Alpha list of top hedge fund earners for 2013, with $2.2 billion in compensation. He consistently earns at that level by using sophisticated algorithms and servers hardwired to the NYSE servers to take advantage of tiny arbitrage opportunities faster than anybody else. For Renaissance, five minutes is a long holding period for a share.

Hedge funds are rabid consumers of technology. More broadly, such use cases make you think, or at least fantasize, about the possibilities of technology enabled business.

Alex Williams talked about this topic a year ago when he got excited about spinning up AWS. Referencing banking, Williams'  colleague Mark Boyd brings this up to date, asserting that:

...more digital companies are requesting that new staff in management positions have at least some coding skills and understanding of the tech stack that enables their products.

I'm not sure that coding skills per se are a route to better management and a richer life but I am convinced that having more than the ability to mumble technical terms at appropriate times makes a substantial difference to avoiding costly mistakes.


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