While tech professionals take on new and exciting challenges when they move into leadership positions, many still have a fondness for the unique challenge of coding. Furthermore, many tech leaders are convinced that it’s essential to keep their coding muscles strong if they’re to stay in touch with and knowledgeable about the work at hand—and they believe it’s an effective way to bond with team members.
Many of the members of Forbes Technology Council make it a point to regularly set aside time for coding. Below, 13 of them share how they stay involved with coding, and why they feel it’s an important part of a leader’s role.
1. Pitch In On Complex Problems
With my “leader hat” on, I measure my coding productivity using the yardstick of the influence and positive reinforcement I bring to my fellow developers in terms of coding style, design thinking and algorithm selection. I am most productive when I work with the team on coding complex CRDT concurrent modification logic or when I am troubleshooting that once-in-a-blue-moon race condition. I believe tech leaders should pitch in to lead by example and to raise the bar. – Pramod Konandur Prabhakar, Pelatro PLC
2. Code During Free Time
The biggest enemy when you’re coding is interruption. But as leaders, we are constantly switching gears—there are always interruptions. Finding uninterrupted time to code during work time is difficult to achieve, so I’ve found the best thing I can do is code during my free time! – Sacha Labourey, CloudBees
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3. Identify When You’re Most Energetic Each Day
There is no one answer to this question, as each tech leader’s most productive coding time will vary based on their individual schedules and preferences. However, a general tip that may help is this: Identify when you are most alert and energetic during the day and plan your coding sessions around those times. – Fabio Moioli, Spencer Stuart
4. Don’t Worry If What Works For You Is ‘Different’
Everyone’s different when it comes to productivity and motivation. Some find coding easiest in the morning, and some are night owls? it really just depends. Know what works for you, and know that it’s okay if what works for you is different from the norm or what works for your coworkers. – Kison Patel, DealRoom
5. Block Significant Coding Time On Your Calendar
Coding needs “flow,” which is often destroyed by interruptions or when you start multitasking. How do you get around it? Block entire days or several hours at a stretch on your calendar for coding, and stick to it. In the early days of my companies, I allowed myself to do non-coding work only on certain days of the week. There were very few exceptions (if any). – Ravi Ithal, Normalize
6. Step In When The Engineering Team Gets ‘Stuck’
I believe stepping in and engaging with the engineering team while they’re solving some of the most complex and challenging coding problems is a great way to support them. Doing this when the engineering team is unable to show significant progress over a period of time is going to be the most productive strategy. – Akhil Tolani, Pixl
7. Take On Noncritical Supplementary Projects
I keep my hand in the code by giving myself noncritical path coding projects outside of ordinary feature deliverables. For example, creating testing, monitoring or telemetry apps to help track product quality and usage helps everyone, and it allows me to keep in touch with the product. I find the best time to code is on a plane during a cross-country trip—there are no distractions! – Dave Mariani, AtScale
8. Perform Periodic Code Reviews
While it is engaging and “fun” for tech leaders to continue to code, in my opinion, a better use of their time, while still maintaining their “coding skills,” is to perform periodic code reviews with some of their developers. This further enhances relationships and also helps coders on the team learn from the leader’s many years of experience in developing well-architected solutions. – Mark Schlesinger, Broadridge Financial Solutions
9. Leverage Multiple Strategies
It is important for tech leaders to understand and be close to the code. There are three strategies I use to stay close to coding. First, I read the code that the team writes (every day). Second, I build internal tools that can add value to the team (once a month or so). Finally, I do architecture reviews (once every week) to understand and keep myself up to date on the evolving systems. – Vamsi Peri, AtoB
10. Group Coding Time With Similar Tasks
One of the most important productivity metrics is switching cost. While working, if you have to change tasks, you lose productivity due to contextual differences. But if you can group together tasks of similar context (such as coding, meetings or documentation), you can maximize your focus. On my team, we group virtual meetings in the afternoon in order to maximize hands-on productivity in the morning. – Nicholas Domnisch, EES Health
11. Find A Quiet Place Away From Interruptions
There is no one answer to this question? however, there are some general tips I’d share. Make sure to set aside time each day or week specifically for coding. Find a time of day when you are typically most alert and awake, and try to code during that time. And find a quiet place to code where you will not be interrupted or distracted—this could be your home office, a local library or a coffee shop. – Sean Toussi, Glo3D Inc.
12. Work On Weekends To Wrap Up The Week And De-Stress
Every tech leader must stay in touch with their core skills, even when they have grown into managing multiple technologies. Keeping our skills sharp allows for continued confidence and the ability to connect with team members. I prefer coding as a way to summarize my week and the activities my team was involved in. So for me, weekends are the best time, and I use the activity to de-stress. – Bhushan Parikh, Get Digital Velocity, LLC
13. Devote Focus Time To A Specific Problem
I write my best code when I have a focused block of time and some inspiration. My coding is usually to solve a specific problem that does not have a clear answer, and it requires dedicated time to process the issue and work out an architecture and solution that works. I may put together the building blocks in spurts, but the actual coding is best done when I can focus. – Lior Yaari, Grip Security