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You Don’t Have to Code: An Interview with Ariel Lopez of 2020Shift

Jul 18, 2016 3 min readPodcasts
Photo of Courtney Seiter
Courtney Seiter

Former Director of People @ Buffer

Sometimes it seems like everyone in the world is learning to code. Coding jobs are plentiful, and coding bootcamps have become their own cottage industry.

But coding isn’t the path to workplace happiness for everyone, and there’s a growing realization of the limitations of the “everyone needs to code” mentality.

That’s where Ariel Lopez comes in. The entrepreneur and career coach founded 2020Shift (of which Buffer is a proud sponsor!) to spread awareness that you don’t have to code to work in tech—and to give underrepresented groups the skills they need to move into all kinds of tech roles.

2020Shift just graduated its first cohort of bootcamp students who got a crash course in hybrid tech roles—roles that are non-engineering yet still technical, like product, design, digital marketing and more.

Fast Company dubbed 2016 the year of the hybrid job, citing a study in which researchers examined 24 million job listings and found that employers want multifaceted employees who possess hard skills such as database technology, coupled with traditional soft skills like communication and collaboration. More than 250,000 of these hybrid roles have been created in the last year alone.

In this CultureLab interview, Ariel talks about the bomb that went off in the industry after Google released their diversity numbers and how that led her to create a program to educate minority millennials about careers in digital media and technology.

ariel lopez

Plus: Carolyn and I chat about going from a startup to a “scaleup” and what changes as a result.

What you’ll learn from this episode:

  • The difference between a startup and a scaleup
  • How to know which kind of work environment you’ll thrive in
  • How to know when you’re entering the scaleup phase
  • The culture changes we’ve observed at Buffer as we scale
  • When it’s more expensive to move fast and when it’s more expensive to wait
  • The 3 questions that can lead you to career happiness
  • What’s bringing droves of new people into tech roles
  • What “hybrid tech roles” are, and why they’re growing fast
  • Why soft skills are essential even in tech roles
  • What universities are doing (and not doing) to give students tech skills

Stuff we talk about in this episode:

startups vs. scaleups

Notable moments

  • 2:11: “Process slows you down until process speeds you up”
  • 3:20: Throwing spaghetti at the wall
  • 4:37: Startups within a scaleup
  • 6:00: Doing everything vs. getting specialized
  • 8:40: Being T-shaped
  • 10:45: A reasonable expectation of weekends and evenings
  • 14:20: Watching your baby grow up
  • 17:55: What career happiness looks like
  • 19:50: Tech is that shiny object in the room
  • 20:53: 3 questions to ask for career happiness
career happiness questions
  • 23:25: A bomb went off in the industry
  • 24:50: Hybrid tech skills
  • 26:00: Think about diversity as holistic
  • 27:30: “Culture is 70% of the hire”
  • 30:05: Not all Millennials suck!
  • 32:30: It’s not just women; it’s everyone
  • 34:35: Incubators on campus
  • 38:00: What is the routine that makes sense for you?
  • 39:00: Some new teenybopper social media platform
  • 39:45: Everyone’s parents ruined Facebook
  • 42:30: “Sometimes I just put ‘eat’ on my calendar”

Further reading

From Startup to Scaleup: What We’re Changing As We Make The Transition

Get in touch!

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Over to you!

Are you a startup person or a scaleup person (or a big company person)? Are you a “tech hybrid?” We’d love to hear from you in the comments, on Twitter, or at!

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