Welcome to the Tech for Non-Techies podcast

82. Intro to agile for non-techies

Agile is now a ubiquitous management term, but few people understand what it means in practice.

For some products, agile is THE BEST system, for others, it is THE WORST.

Listen to this week’s episode to find out what it is, how it works in practice, when to use it and when to avoid it.

You’ll hear how WhatsApp used this methodology to release its first product, and learn how to use it yourself.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • There are two methodologies to make things: waterfall and agile.
  • Waterfall came from manufacturing and construction and emphasises planning in order to release a perfect product. For example, if you’re building a house, you need to plan ahead and only let people move in to live in it when it is complete.
  • Agile methodology is an iterative process, used by software developers. Simple changes get released frequently, in response to user needs or technological changes. The product is by definition never complete, because it is always changing.
  • ...
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66. Why cloud computing isn't just for techies

You’ve probably heard the term cloud computing, but like most non-techies, you’re not sure what it means. In this episode, you’ll learn what it is and how businesses use it to solve problems.

You’ll learn from DJ Johnson, who works at Microsoft Azure. DJ started his career as an NBA player and transitioned into a career in tech.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Cloud computing allows businesses to rent space to store data. Previously, companies had to store data on their own servers, which was much more expensive.
  • The two biggest players in cloud computing are Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
  • As a non-techie, first identify business problems and then see if technology can fix them.
  • For example, during Covid when suddenly many people ended up working from home, one of DJ’s clients suffered from major time lags in their communications. Their internal messenger service was taking 3 days to deliver a message! This was making customers...
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63. There are no lone wolves in tech: all products are interconnected

Every app and site is made up of lots of different tech tools and languages. Like a house, one part is built on top of another and they need each other to function. If one part of the structure breaks, the rest can fall down too. 

These are called dependencies. To keep a product working, all the dependencies need to work together. This is part of the invisible work that software engineers do.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • A tech stack describes all the tools and programming languages used to build an app or a site. Some of those tools are custom made, some are rented as licences and others plug you into a bigger ecosystem.
  • Examples of bigger eco-systems that many products depend on are the Apple App Store, Google Play and Amazon Web Services. If one of these ecosystems has a problem, the apps and sites they support will have issues too. An app on the Apple App Store depends on Apple, hence the term dependency.
  • Product teams have to update...
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59. What on Earth is growth hacking?

Why do some products go viral and others die a quiet death? The answer lies in growth hacking. 

Growth hacking is a type of marketing that combines working on the product, which is an inside job, and working on promotion, which is an outside job. It is a new discipline born with the tech sector, and growing in popularity today.

Learning notes from this episode:

    • The Dropbox growth hacking case study is still seen as the Holy Grail in the sector. The team created a double referral program to grow 3900% in just 15 months.
    • A growth hacking effort is always done by a multi-disciplinary team, and will often involve a product manager, a designer, a community manager, engineers, someone with a marketing or PR background, and maybe a data scientist.

    • Traditional marketing is outside facing: billboards, TV ads and articles in the press.  Growth hacking is different because it looks at the inside of the product, and adjusts it to grow users and revenue.

    • PR...
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53. The hidden cost of cat videos

tech terms explained Jun 30, 2021

Storing stuff costs money, this is why it’s good to look in the back of the cupboard and decide whether you really need all those spices you bought 5 years ago.

This is the same with data stored by tech companies. Companies have to pay to store data on servers. Google pays to keep all of those cat videos on YouTube. 

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Storing data costs money and most companies rent server storage space from Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure.
  • If you’re going to store data, you need to know how you’re going to make money out of it.
  • Advertising isn’t the only way to make money out of data. You could aggregate the data into reports and sell them as industry insights.
  • Storing data on how people use your product can help you improve your product.
  • If you don’t have a plan for how to use the data you pay to store, you’re a hoarder and that’s not a good strategy.


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46. How technology moves money around the world

When you make a payment, your money doesn’t reach the destination bank account straight away. Instead, it goes through an underground railroad of payment providers and intermediaries to reach its destination.

In traditional banking, this process is expensive and slow, but new fintech players are changing the system.

In this episode, you’ll hear from Justin Xiao how fintech company Railsbank is solving this problem, and how tiny snippets of code called APIs tie technology companies together.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • APIs are tiny snippets of code that allow one tech product to be integrated into another tech product. For example, each time you see Login with Facebook in a website or an app, that company is using the Facebook API to allow you to login.
  • Railsbank allows companies to move money around just like a bank would, by giving access to its services via its API
  • To learn more about APIs, listen to episode 37: APIs: Why Uber uses Google Maps


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45. Apps have brains too: a quick guide to servers

Every time you send a message on Whatsapp, it goes through the server. Every time you look back at your old Instagram photos, the server brings you your data.

Servers are a key component of almost all apps, and they work like the brains of the operation. Their main task is to enable communication and store data.

If you want to build tech products or invest in them, you need to know this key concept.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • The front end is a computer that speaks to humans. The bit of an app or site you interact with is called a front end. If you can touch it, swipe it or speak to it, it is a front end. 

  • The front end is like your sensory organs: eyes, ears and mouth.
  • The back end (the server side) is the bit of the app that you cannot interact with yourself: it is a computer that only talks to computers.

  • The server is the brain of your operation: it enables communication and stores data. 



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43. What's technical debt and why should non-techies care?

If code gets written, that usually means that there's technical debt. If it isn't dealt with regularly, the product doesn't work properly, engineers leave and you'll have a rebellion on your hands.

In this episode, you'll learn from Alexandre Omeyer, founder of Stepsize, the core concepts that non-technies need to know about technical debt.

This is must know concept for founders, product managers and smart investors.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Technical debt is the mess that gets left over from writing code and should be regularly cleaned up in order for the engineering team to work properly.
  • Alexandre suggests thinking of the tech development process like a restaurant kitchen. Having spillage and potato peels dropping on the floor is a normal part of the cooking process. But if you do not have a regimen to clean up, you will end up with a filthy kitchen that will affect your food (i.e. your product) and your customers will get sick.
  • Non-techies need to know that technical...
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40. How to use No Code apps to build your first product

No code tools are a great way to build your first product, get it into users' hands and see if there is a business case. Once you've done that, you know what to invest in and why.

But, they are not a long term solution for many products. Listen to this episode what the no code movement is, how you can use no code tools to build your first product and when you have to graduate to building your own tech.

 Learning notes from this episode:

  • The no code movement is the idea that you can build a digital product using existing tools, which you assemble together without writing any of your own code. It includes everything from website and app builders like Bubble, to tools that automate e-commerce processes and marketing, like Mailchimp.
  • Building a simple solution using tools that are already out there, means that you can get it into users’ hands, get feedback and see if there is a business case. Successful non-technical founders do this before raising...
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37. APIs: why Uber uses Google Map‪s‬

You can login to Bumble with Facebook and Uber uses Google maps. This happens because Uber's servers are connected to Google via a special widget called the API.

In this podcast episode, Sophia Matveeva teaches what APIs are and how companies can use them to grow users and revenue. This is a great episode if you want to see an example of when tech strategy is also business strategy.

APIs are certainly not a concept that should be left to the techies alone.

Learning notes:

  • The server is like a brain: it is a processing organ. But, just as a brain needs sensory organs to give and receive information in the form of a mouth, eyes and ears, so does a server. The server's sensory organs are the APIs.
  • APIs are snippets of code that let you borrow another app's functionality or data, like Google Maps within Uber.
  • APIs can help companies grow their user base, make more money and collect more data about user behaviour. Deciding what APIs you product should have open is therefore both a ...
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