The latest from the PostHog community

All posts

Jun 25, 2021

A non-coder's thoughts on an 'Everybody Codes' culture

Joe Martin
Joe Martin

One of PostHog’s core values is that everybody codes. That doesn’t mean everyone needs previous experience as a developer or engineer, but we encourage everyone to learn and practice the basics of shipping, no matter their role.

When we’re hiring developers, this isn’t an issue. However, it can be intimidating for candidates who don’t have coding experience, even if they are otherwise technically literate. This is because our tools are centered around GitHub, so even writing this blog post requires knowing how to submit Pull Requests.

Having recently joined PostHog as a Product Marketer, I definitely fall into this non-coding cohort. My previous experience may have been reasonably technical, but my coding knowledge is limited to a smattering of HTML; product marketers are better known for their presentation decks than their pull requests. Thankfully, there were three things which set me up for success when using these tools and processes for the first time.

Getting started early

There’s a lot to be done when joining a new company, and intimidating tasks can end up deprioritized - especially if they’d normally fall outside your remit.

One of the best things PostHog’s team did was to get me started on coding as soon as possible. This included sharing videos about GitHub fundamentals before I started and setting up tools such as Visual Studio Code with me.

I set out to update our Team page to test my abilities. It only required editing a single .md file, but doing that first pull request built my confidence. We’ve since added this task to our onboarding process to give future team members a similar experience.

Having realistic limits

Not knowing what is expected of you and when to ask for help can make an ‘everyone codes’ culture intimidating.

I experienced this when my next update required working with React. I couldn’t recognize React code so I couldn't Google the right questions. It was a total blocker.

Thankfully, our Engineering team is amazingly communicative and supportive. They helped me understand the problem and, more importantly, when I should be delegating. Setting realistic limits and building a supportive atmosphere are crucial for a successful coding culture.

Making mistakes

One other element of our culture is our bias for action, but this can be daunting when you’re doing something for the first time. What if you get it wrong? What if you break the website or create a product bug?

This isn’t the way it works, of course. GitHub has reviews built in to prevent such big mistakes and make it easy to roll back changes where needed. What feels high-risk to a novice isn’t actually risky at all, so we can afford to be bullish.

I’ve made many minor mistakes, and each time, someone has stepped in with helpful and timely feedback rather than admonishment. In this way, mistakes reinforce our culture and help everyone to learn faster.

Ultimately, while I was initially nervous about the ‘everyone codes’ culture at PostHog, it hasn’t taken me long to start seeing benefits. As a team, we can move faster; and as individuals, we can have greater impact with less bureaucracy - as shown when I made my first product update in only my second week.

Enjoyed this? Subscribe to our newsletter to hear more from us twice a month!