“It’s an asset to become technical, but hire experts who are smarter than you.”
When I graduated with my MS in Information Science, there was a glaring gap where coding skills should be. Sure, I knew html and maintained several WordPress sites, and even blew up our PHP a couple times. When I began the research for our MyLibrarian book recommendation engine, I realized I needed to fill the void by learning to code. More on that here.
In short, as formerly non-technical founder, here’s what I did:
—Attended Women Who Code and other coding meetups to land on a language to learn
—Studied Algorithms at the Women Who Code meetup, where we took online classes and whiteboarded: Algorithms I from Tim Roughgarden and Machine Learning from Andrew Ng.
—Attended a three-month front end dev bootcamp (JS, J$) and a MySQL intensive workshop
—Lead several rounds of testing our lo-fi and internal alpha product, taking part in resources such as:
Tech Entrepreneurship 1 & 2 from Stanford Venture Lab
Lean Startup Circle
And several independent rounds
—Built and managed dev for our web platform, In the Stacks.tv
—Partnered with the only other librarian developer in SF (it seemed like it!) to build our internal alpha, a book recommendation web app, which debuted in 2016
—Used Information Architecture/UX skills (my day job) to map out wireframes for product, test and iterate, and land on the fourth version of the product, which we are now building
—Hire the best developers I can to build MyLibrarian (React Native, Python, MySQL)
Now, I lead product and do hiring, sales automation, and community marketing. I’ve built a dozen websites in WordPress, Bootstrap, ExpressionEngine etc. but the main edge I’ve retained is knowing how to more intelligently communicate our product needs to developers. I’m a founder who learned to code, but not well enough to build our product, which is growing into a machine learning/AI based tech product, but well enough to do product and lead devs.
Being a founder who learned to code to build the first version of our product, and then went on to hire developers who are much better at coding than I am, is the best decision I ever made.—Michelle Z., founder of MyLibrarian / In the Stacks