How Learning to Code Made Me a Better Digital Strategist

August 31st, 2018 | Leslie Hernandez

How Learning to Code Made Me a Better Digital Strategist

“Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer… because it teaches you how to think.” – Steve Jobs

 

When I tell people that I’m learning to code, they assume that I’m trading in my career as a digital strategist to pursue a future as a full-time computer programmer. The truth is, I have no plans of changing career paths. In fact, I’m learning to code to become a better strategist.

You may be thinking, how do digital strategists benefit from learning to code? Isn’t that what developers are for?

There’s a common misconception that learning to code is only for people looking to build a career in computer programming. The truth is, every single person could benefit from knowing some coding basics—especially digital strategists. Here are three ways strategists can benefit by learning a thing or two about code.

1. Become a full-time problem solver

Coding is more than just learning a computer language. It’s about learning to problem solve. Before developers can write a line of code, they think through the problem in front of them. They make documentation comments to explain the functionality of every piece of code. Adapting a “pseudocode” mindset has actually changed the way I approach everyday tasks, empowering me to solve complex problems by breaking them up into smaller, methodical steps.

In my role as a digital strategist, I’m often required to “pseudocode” by taking large amounts of data and filtering it down in order to identify trends and insights—but large spreadsheets full of raw data can be overwhelming. So, I create a plan to help me streamline the process and avoid future obstacles. When auditing large websites with hundreds of interactions, I look for commonalities and immediate red flags, and then organize them accordingly. Applying this new “pseudocode” mindset makes those spreadsheets a lot less daunting and allows me to tackle high-level digital problems, one step at a time.

2. Save time for your whole team

Let’s face it. Developers are busy. They don’t enjoy being bogged down with small requests from other departments.

Simply understanding the fundamentals of Javascript and HTML enables strategists to carry out simple tasks—like implementing title tags and metadata, or adding tracking codes and schema markups to websites—without relying on third-party plugins or developer resources.

Not only will this skill give you the autonomy to carry out your projects faster, it will bridge the communication gap between you and your dev team, resulting in better synergy and saved time across your organization’s departments.

At PRPL, our Research & Planning team applies coding knowledge to build tools that optimize our internal processes as well. For example, I’m currently working with our developers to build a keyword research tool that will automate reporting for our strategists. More on that in a future blog.

3. Gain More Powerful Insights

At the heart of every digital campaign is a whole bunch of code, and learning how to read and analyze it can help you think more like a data scientist than a marketer. Understanding the code behind your campaigns gives you the insights needed to make better predictions, which lead to smarter business decisions for your clients.

Now, your decisions are based on historical and real-time data, and you can measure your results using statistical models rather than spreadsheets. Having the ability to surface hidden insights will make you a marketing tour-de-force, and with the added knowledge, you can communicate your findings better than ever before. 

 

All members of your business, marketing or not, are expected to have a holistic understanding of basic technical skills. Learning to code may seem out of your comfort zone at first, but in the long-run it will make you a hybrid marketer and valuable contribution to your team.

 


 

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