We now live in a world where 7-year-olds are building web apps.
Even if your job description isn’t “data engineer” and nobody calls you “dev,” you still harness technology to stay competitive. Your business might not sell technology, but it probably uses tech to understand its market, refine its product, and hire new people.
No, tech isn’t just about flashy tricks. Every industry depends on technology to scale processes, improve efficiency, and communicate. Every Mark Zuckerberg and Drew Houston of the world realized that technology holds the key to success. Still, we’re not born speaking Python. We all have our own journeys into the tech world.
How I Came to Love Tech
I was lucky. I was raised in Silicon Valley. My parents were engineers and entrepreneurs, and my dad would bring actual silicon home to teach me how circuits work.
I learned by playing. I took a computer apart to see how it was made. I fixed my friends’ phones. I played my way into a career at Google, where I learned to have great respect for engineers and how they turned ideas into reality.
Even when I grew into the CEO and founder role at Node, I knew I’d need to depend on a dev team to make my vision a reality, but I still kept my hands dirty with tech and continued to meet with engineers to learn from them.
4 Tech Concepts All Entrepreneurs Should Know
If you’re building a company that interacts with software — whether you’re simply using tools to automate processes or creating tech products — you need to have an understanding of how tech works. These four concepts should be firmly in your wheelhouse:
1. You should know what an API is.
API stands for “application program interface.” In short, if your software is a map, an API is the key. It tells you what things mean and how you should read them.
Operating environments and websites provide open APIs so programmers can use their applications as a part of their own projects. Take a simple example like Google Maps. The Google Maps API is available for developers to take and embed maps straight onto their sites without needing to reinvent the wheel.
It’s important to understand APIs because they offer quick, high-quality solutions to common problems. They’re one of the wonderful ways the tech world collaborates to get stuff done.
2. You should understand which languages are being used.
There are many languages being used in tech, but it’s important that you’re aware of the most popular ones and how they’re used to build different applications:
- Python is the language of choice for data scientists. It’s high-level and comes with a huge library and suite of tools to help programmers.
- Java is a simple, secure language that is object-based and widely trusted by businesses.
- Linux is the most common and usable language in the tech world — it’s even used by the government.
- SQL stands for “standard query language” and is the language of relational databases. This one is a must for any team working with data.
Even if you’re not fluent in any language other than English, you should appreciate the languages being spoken around you by your tech team.
3. You should understand how different systems work.
Your system is basically the layers of functionality that ensure your product works. At Node, we have three layers: acquisition, analysis, and access. We collect data, make sense of it, and feed it back in a personalized way.
Depending on what problem you’re solving, you’ll set up your technology in different ways. You’ll likely use a cloud-based infrastructure. There are three main types of cloud-based systems you’ll encounter:
- Software as a Service tools like Salesforce and MailChimp provide a service without the user having to build that function herself.
- Platform as a Service providers make it easier to build software by dealing with the servers and operating hardware for you. Google has a great one called App Engine.
- Infrastructure as a Service providers offer building blocks that allow users to create their own infrastructures on the cloud according to their needs.
Once you understand how systems are put together, you can start to identify the limits of those systems and troubleshoot when bottlenecks or inefficiencies occur.
4. You should have an appreciation for high-quality development processes.
Quality is a vital concept in tech. Developers and engineers work hard to ensure that what they’re making works and doesn’t break. There are several development methods devs use to build and evolve code:
- Continuous integration means they’re developing several lines of code at once and merging back to the main branch, testing as they go.
- Continuous delivery is an additional layer on top of continuous integration and means that new changes are released to the user automatically.
- Continuous deployment goes a step further again. Changes go straight to the user, passing automatically through testing and delivery. The change will only be denied if something is wrong with the code.
Understanding how developers work to ensure quality and learn quickly from users will help you project-manage around the real timeline of a tech product.
Don’t let tech scare you. Set out to tackle one concept at a time, get help from your team, and make it fun. Once you’ve got an understanding, you’ll be able to ask the right questions to your team members, supply them with the right resources, and drive innovation in your company.
Read more: Forbes