How Much Code Should I know?

I’m dealing with this question in my head basically every single day; I still don’t have a definitive answer.

Being a Development Manager (DM from now on) means that you have to wear a large number of hats whenever you enter the workplace on a daily basis and I’m sure I will cover most of them in this blog at one point or another.

One of the main jobs of a DM, obviously, is to make sure your team is shipping work; but how do you know it’s good work?


How do you know?

Do you have Team Leads who can help guide Developers in the difference between SignalR and AngularJS?

Do you have Snr Developers who you trust to make the decision between which Javascript framework to use?

Or do you have your team who really can’t make those decisions themselves and without your input would struggle to get the product out without bastardizing it within an inch of it’s life.

Whichever of the three cases you have at your business really answers the fundamental question of HOW much code you need to know… but that isn’t what this blog post is titled.

I’m asking how much code you SHOULD know.

In my opinion, as a leader of a department, you need to know the cogs of how the products are put together from a very high level.

OK, if you don’t know how to use Ninject it probably won’t harm you in the long run, but knowing when a Developer is going down the wrong path should be something you can spot, and spot quickly before they waste a lot of your time.

There is also the question of whether you can help dive into code and either sort out problems the team are having or just purely add value to process. In my experience so far… a manager who can be in the trenches with their team is far more valuable than one who talks the talk but doesn’t actually know how to code the walk.

So how do you keep yourself up to date when it’s not your day job to do so?

Well it needs a bit of out of hours work, that’s a certainty, but that’s the cost to being the boss. For me Twitter is an amazing source of topics I know I should be looking at. Following key developers at companies around the world means I know when they share something it’s probably of value.

It all just really begs the question of how much value can you bring to your team?

Most DMs have been promoted vertically from a position that was probably day to day code at some point; and for me that was fun.

So why change it just because you have more responsibility?

If anything the DM SHOULD be showing the way because they have more influence to put their team on the right path to producing a great product that your customers will enjoy using.