Learning the Skills for a Software-Focused World

In a 2011 essay in the Wall Street Journal, Marc Andreessen, venture capitalist and co-creator of the first widely used web browser, famously wrote, “Software is eating the world.” For Andreessen, this wasn’t a warning but a declaration that a focus on software will make technology ever more useful, ushering in a new era of prosperity.

Four years later, his assertion seems increasingly irrefutable. It’s more difficult today to find an industry that isn’t being transformed by software than one that is. What does this development mean for the MBA student preparing to be a leader in the decades to come?

Kyle Jensen and Miles Lasater YC ’01 have a simple answer: learn to code. Jensen, Yale SOM’s Shanna and Eric Bass ’05 Director of Entrepreneurial Programs, and Lasater, founder of the education software company Higher One and a lecturer in the practice of entrepreneurship at SOM, launched a new course this year called Management of Software Development, which aims to give students the skills and language to successfully manage software developers.

Very few of these students will go off and write code. But almost all of them will be in organizations that are using, producing, or being disrupted by software.

The course was also designed to bring together students with a variety of perspectives on the development of technology ventures. Jensen and Lasater reserved 40% of the seats for students outside Yale SOM, and the course attracted students with backgrounds in architecture, music, the environment, and computer science.

During the course, students learned a variety of software languages, including HTML, CSS, and Java. They learned to understand cloud computing and version control, and studied methods for software development like DevOps, agile, and scrum. Working in teams, students then created a mobile web application, a way to put their new coding skills and management techniques into practice.

At the end of the term, students had a solid understanding of coding. They weren’t experts; that wasn’t the point. “Very few of these students will go off and write code,” Jensen says. “But almost all of them will be in organizations that are using, producing, or being disrupted by software. It helps them dramatically to learn about software, to be able to create technologies themselves, and to manage people producing technologies.”

Lasater adds: “This is a skill pretty much everyone needs.”