Cracking the code: How this company teaches executives computer code in a day


A new school promises to teach you, me and everyone else in between how to code in a day

The Decoded gang

The four founders of Decoded, from left to right: Steve Henry, Kathryn Parsons, Alasdair Blackwell and Richard Peters. Photo, James M Hole

Ask yourself this: How many times have I spoken with a developer, IT person or even a mate down the pub and felt completely overwhelmed, exasperated and confused?

Chances are a fair few – the internet revolution happened so fast many of us feel we’re trying desperately to catch up.

When your web developer says he can’t adjust that bit of the website you simply agree, or tear your hair out in exasperation when he says it will take two weeks to do. 

So what’s the answer? We weren’t taught coding in schools – kids still aren’t taught coding in school in fact – and we’ve not the time (or inclination) to spend three years learning HTML. Well, according to Steve Henry, one of the four founders of Decoded, all you need is one day.

“The myth is it takes you three years to learn code, and you need to be a 15-year-old, sat in your boxers hacking into the Pentagon,” says Henry.

“At Decoded we’ve developed a series of courses to demystify and celebrate the world of writing code – everybody gets to understand how it works.”

The Decoded workshop aims to teach those with none, or little, knowledge of coding the basics behind HTML5, CSS3 and Java Script. Once equipped with a decent grasp of these three languages, staff can return to their companies “empowered” and equipped to brief designers and enter dialogues otherwise incomprehensible to them.

Decoded is less than one year old. So far clients include (among others) blue chips such as Talk Talk, BT, The Guardian, BBC, O2, Facebook, The Financial Times and Paddy Power, alongside smaller companies and sole traders – “We’ve even had a florist”, says Henry. 

The workshop takes place in spacious, comfortable labs in Shepherdess Walk. Up to 10 pupils at a time are taught by two expert coders and teachers. The morning is given over to the history of the internet –“its story, significant characters, to ease them in gently” – and in the afternoon they start coding.

A specially designed app has been created by Decoded and pupils learn how to build it. By having two teachers per group Henry promises people don’t fall behind, and that the course is precisely structured to ensure all different skill levels are looked after.

So what’s happens after?

“Eighty per cent [of attendees]aren’t creative,” says Henry. “But when they go back to the office they can have conversations – they can brief people and have a valuable dialogue.”

It seems to be working. The Decoded website boasts dozens of glowing testimonials.

“Coding is now not the preserve of techies with 10,000 hours of experience and expertise. For me, it was akin to the first time I went scuba diving: the sense of wonder as you dip below the waves for the first time and the true landscape of the sea bed is revealed,” says Alliot Cole of Octopus Ventures.

Now the team is looking to extend their offering and plans to roll out longer courses and variable packages. They’re considering adding new subjects to their syllabus too.

The goal is to demystify and clarify says Henry, “it could be that we demystify the stock exchange”, actually they have their sights on data next.

“Data in marketing – it’s the black gold. Clients are inundated with data which is potentially enormously valuable, but interpreting that data and being able to visualise it, those skill sets are held with a small number of people.”

So with more and more data constantly being generated, the team are looking at designing a course that teaches people how to interpret it, filter it and break it down into useful information from which strategy can be applied.

Then perhaps, they’ll move onto the stock exchange.   


When he’s not teaching executives to code, Steve Henry is an advertising creative consultant and LondonlovesBusiness.com columnist. Read his regular monthly column on the world of advertising and marketing here