JavaScript training for every employee? One company says yes

Software firm FreeCause mandates that everyone learn JavaScript -- and they mean everyone.

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According to Hage, the company used to allocate about 30% of the engineering staff's time to fulfilling requests from the business side for new features in the company's software. Offloading even 20% of that time to let engineers focus on high-level tasks delivers a huge benefit, he says -- especially in a technology company, where engineering represents a high percentage of costs.

Data analyst Corinne Salchunas
Data analyst Corinne Salchunas: "Working with my coding mentor ... we were able to improve clickthroughs at least sixfold."

Data analyst Corinne Salchunas is one employee who has taken up the challenge. Salchunas is responsible for analyzing the effectiveness of the company's loyalty management software. With a degree in economics, she had not done any programming in school and none at FreeCause beyond Excel macros and limited database queries.

"One of our features notifies people when they can earn points on a particular site, but I noticed that users weren't clicking on these notifications very frequently," says Salchunas. "I realized that we weren't notifying users clearly enough. Working with my coding mentor, I came up with some new versions of the notifications, including having the pop-ups appear sooner, and between the messaging and the timing, we were able to improve clickthroughs at least sixfold."

"That was a great demonstration of how powerful codinization could be," says Jaconi. "We never anticipated that that kind of validation would happen so quickly."

Is coding for everyone?

Would something like FreeCause's cross-company codinization program work for every company? Very likely not. But the idea behind the program should resonate for both CEOs and CIOs. "As we become more dependent on technology," says CEO Jaconi, "it's tough to argue against people learning what their future work might be based on."

Manufacturing jobs are turning into software engineering jobs, he says. "We're interacting with more technology than ever before, so having a fundamental understanding of what our future is built upon will make us better consumers and better professionals."

Ultimately, Jaconi says, "If you understand the technology your company is built on, you can only become better at what you do."

Bersin, the talent and training analyst, agrees on the importance of common vision and execution within an organization. "All well-run companies have a curriculum that they want employees to know. It's taught either through word-of-mouth, or reinforcement, or certification. It helps everyone speak the same language."

Frequent contributor Howard Baldwin also wrote Should the CIO know how to code? He lives and works in Silicon Valley.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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