Creative Technologists? No, Coders

Creative Technologists? No, Coders

This is a great piece from Wieden & Kennedy blog called Why We are not Hiring Creative Technologists. The writer is @IgorClark.

The main point is that if you are going to be in the business of making or designing software, you need to have technical people on your team. All sophisticated digital programs are fundamentally software and even if you are working with a production house, you need to understand it to keep your seat at the table. Having only people that only understand he concept is dangerous.

Clearly many non-technical factors are involved, but there is one simple and concrete thing we can do: stop hiring “creative technologists”. Hire coders. Reject compromise on this front, and resist pressure to give in to it. Only hire people to work at the crossover of creative and technology if they have strong, practical, current coding skills.

The challenge is how to attract them. What people often forget is a good developer can be as prima donna as a great creative. At Organic in the first boom we sold eCommerce. 50% of our offices were engineering. In most digital shops the Director of Technology is on par with the Creative Director.

Ultimately, to do that you need to provide an environment that’s as appealing and satisfying for extraordinary, creative software people as the one you already provide is for traditional creative folks. But it also needs to be as appealing to this new breed as their potential alternate settings at Google, Facebook, Tech Startup X. Fortunately, you have the potential to make it even more so for genuine creative coders – because they’re not looking for pure engineering any more than you are.

And this is the great shift marketing technology can offer. We can free the right kind of developer from the racks of coders locked up in banks across the globe working for Accenture. Of course, if 4 out of 5 conversations end in frustration because the broader team doesn’t understand software, doesn’t get the answers the tech team needs or doesn’t understand functionality trade-offs, then they won’t stay in the business.

While you don’t need to become an engineering company, you face some of their challenges. You need to understand, accept and embrace some of the nuts and bolts of software development, and take on board the work dedicated shops are doing on its processes. You need such a strong streak of code running through the atmosphere that coders want to come to you, and everyone else gets code spilling over them.

And this is the key point. If team members say “I’m all for digital, but I’m not technical” then you have to throw them out. It is like saying “I’m excited to work on the Olympics but I don’t like sports.” Digital marketing by definition is technical and this means we need to find a real home for coders in our agencies.

Don’t get me wrong, this is hard, and it’ll take time. It’s not just procedural, but cultural, so a big part of doing it comes down to who you hire and how you let them do their thing. But that’s exactly the point. That’s why it’s most important, way before you get all that fixed, and as the first major step on that road: just don’t hire “creative technologists” who aren’t strong coders.