Mr. Lott has been involved in over 70 software development projects in a career that spans 30 years. He has worked in the capacity of internet strategist, software architect, project leader, DBA, programmer. Since 1993 he has been focused on data warehousing and the associated e-business architectures that make the right data available to the right people to support their business decision-making. Steven is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 144 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Should the CIO Know How to Code?

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Read this Computerworld posting: Should the CIO know how to code?

The answer is "Yes."

The examples of "well-functioning non-technical CIOs" are people as rare as hen's teeth.  "These are leaders who know what they don't know. They are good at asking the right questions, probing for further insight, and then re-framing the answers in such a way that the business side will understand".

I'm sure there are people like this.  In the last 35 years, I've met very, very few.  Two actually.

Larry and Chuck are the two examples.

Larry knew what he didn't know.  He took the time to actually sit with actual developers and actually watch them work.  It was weird the first time he sat and watched you type.  But without deep knowledge, he couldn't be sure the projects would get done.  So he allocated an hour or more each day to sit with key developers and learn.

Chuck did essentially the kind of thing.  He sat with each developer individually every single day.  He did not have all-hands meetings that lasted hours.  He did not have an "around the table" where everyone spent 20 minutes boring the entire rest of the team with irrelevant details.

Could they code?

Essentially, yes.  They looked at code over a developer's shoulder.  They participated in a form of "pair programming" where they watched code happen.  By themselves they couldn't code much.  As pair programmers, however, they could work with another programmer and get stuff done.
Published at DZone with permission of Steven Lott, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Chuck Dillon replied on Thu, 2012/05/03 - 2:26pm

If you had said "have technical proficiency" or similar rather than "code" I would agree.  If you were describing a system architecting or system engineering foundation yes.   But I don't see any value in IT adiministrators being proficient in some arbitrary programming language.  I see no value at all in them doing buddy programming.  Perhaps your view of a CIO's job description and mine are very different.

Mpumelelo Msimanga replied on Tue, 2014/04/08 - 4:01pm in response to: Chuck Dillon

I think you are nitpicking, there is no way you can architect systems without knowing how applications are put together. Much like a architecture in the physical world, architects need to know the different strengths and properties of different materials used for building. Their architecture needs to take into consideration the materials on hand. CIOs do need to know how to code or at least spend time watching developers so they have an understanding of coding.

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