Oct 30

Business skills for developers

A long, long time ago at JavaLobby, Eric asked:

The most common piece of advice is that in addition to technical skills, IT people need to develop “business skills”. A lot of these articles never list some of these business skills, they simply repeat that phrase.
So the main questions are: What are some of the “business skills” that IT people should acquire? How do I go about getting them?


If you take the time to understand these things, you’ll have a pretty good understanding of why business people will often make decisions that

  1. Seem shortsighted
  2. Seem counterproductive
  3. Seem greedy and abusive

Don’t get me wrong! There are times when business people are shortsighted, counterproductive and greedy/abusive. However, often they have reasons for what they do. Programmers often think that other people are stupid, because they don’t understand how to make computers dance. But they’re not stupid. They’re wired differently.

  • Join a startup, the earlier in its lifecycle the better
  • Take some economics classes
  • Listen to economics podcasts on your way in to work, or on your way home
  • Read entrepreneurial blogs
  • Update – Walter Williams has a 10-part series on Economics. It won’t be perfect, but it’s free, and easy to follow.
  • Update #2 – A reader suggests: “Stop on the street, choose some random business nearby. Ask yourself how they make money.”

In my opinion, when you can listen to the Administrator explain why he likes the Machine that goes “Ping” and you understand what he is saying, and why he might prefer that model, you will have grasped the essence of business.

Update: – added two new suggestions to the “How” list.

Update 2: It just occurred to me that I should mention my own blog – PicoBusiness, which is obviously written from a business/technology cross-over background.

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