7 Entrepreneurship Tips from a Coder: Why Cefi Menda Learned Web Development

As an entrepreneur, Cefi Menda was precocious—he had co-founded three businesses, interned at a bank, and spoke German, Turkish, and Spanish, all after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in physics from Duke University.

But Cefi—a non-technical founder—yearned for a particular skill set. “It was really tough that I never had too much control over product development,” he said. He struggled to find the right tech talent—someone trustworthy and motivated. Ultimately, he decided to bridge the gap on his own.

He enrolled in the Columbia Engineering Coding Boot Camp. A substantive, six-month program at a prestigious university, it was perfect for a learner like Cefi.

Below are his tips about how entrepreneurs can make the most of a coding boot camp.

1. Just do it—take those baby steps

“A lot of people have great ideas, but they don’t actually take the leap of faith and do it,” said Cefi. As an entrepreneur, he was never one to hold himself back with what-ifs. If it brought him one step closer to his vision, he was willing to struggle for it.

According to Cefi, ideas aren’t the hard thing; what’s harder is to execute. “I’m a terrible influence to my friends because I keep trying to convince them to drop their jobs and do their own thing,” he said, adding that people can always learn from their mistakes.

2. Just learn it—it’ll make you a better boss

While studying at Duke, Cefi took a computer science course that gave him a brief introduction to coding, but it wasn’t enough to be able to manage people whose job he didn’t really understand. “That was borderline impossible,” he said.

Cefi wanted to clarify that it wasn’t about micromanagement. “You just have to know how your employees are performing,” he said. According to him, being able to evaluate performance is important to anyone thinking about starting a business.

3. Don’t worry about being tech savvy or not

It’s a myth that to succeed in coding you need a technical background. But there’s a soft skill that matters even more.

“I don’t think anyone needs to be afraid of coding just because they didn’t have an extensive math background. What’s really valuable is the ability to break down problems into small pieces,” he said, adding that most people already possess this skill—and use it day-to-day.

After Cefi figured that out, coding became simple for him. “Obviously, it’s not going to be natural for some people. You have to spend time at it for it to become natural,” he said, adding that practice (and determination) makes perfect.

4. Push your boundaries wherever possible

Cefi stopped working—and focused all his efforts into learning to code. “I made sure that I had all the time in the world available for the boot camp,” he said. Even before starting, he knew he would be listening closely for what coding skills could do for his goals.

At the beginning of his first group project, Cefi struck a deal with his team: they agreed to pursue projects that would be challenging and that would have real-world applications. “Even with basic skills, you can set your mind to building something really cool and cutting-edge,” he said.

For example, after the boot camp ended, Cefi built a foreign exchange automation tool for a client that executes trades using an algorithm.

5. Be open to fellow learners—as future employees

“Going through a program like this you make a lot of connections,” he said. Working with people who are developing similar skills proved useful for Cefi. The boot camp introduced him to his brand new developer, in the form of the course assistant.

“When you spend time with people, it’s very clear who has the right culture fit,” he said. “When you’re recruiting an unknown developer, you try to make assessments about that person’s qualities without actually having worked with them. That’s almost a coin flip. But going through the program, you actually work with people.”

With the boot camp, Cefi was one person closer to solving his perennial talent shortage.

6. Pick up some soft skills, too—like public speaking

Having presented to investors during rounds of fundraising, Cefi wasn’t a novice public speaker. But as a non-native English speaker, he relished the opportunity the boot camp gave him to refine his presentation abilities before fellow learners and instructors.

“It’s a low-risk environment where you can practice these skills. If you intend on going into the start-up world, these skills are crucial,” he said.

7. Get an accountability partner—and set small goals

It was clear to Cefi that he was surrounded by helpful resources, like the boot camp’s learner support teams.

Timamu Wilson, part of the career services team, suggested biweekly meetings with Cefi to provide a layer of accountability for each of his goals. With that, he did what he does best: set high, numerical targets, including a networking and lead prospecting goal—and applied Timamu’s wise counsel to his winning entrepreneurial drive.