I urge leaders to learn coding, to step through the looking glass in order to become enlightened decision-makers, visionaries in a rapidly changing world and to lead teams towards tomorrow”. With this parable from Alice in Wonderland, the digital mechanic and founder of In Silico Veritas, Aurélie Jean, gives a talk at USI’s 10th edition to convince leaders engaged in the digital transformation of the importance of testing to better decide.

“I have stepped through the looking glass. I am a geek even, but most importantly, I am an enlightened user of new technologies. Thanks to coding, I never panic. I think. I rationalize. And that’s essential”, Aurélie Jean says at the start of her talk. Innovation is on everyone’s mind. Businesses have understood that the digital could be the source of exponential growth. And having stepped through the looking glass, she believes it isn’t difficult for leaders to do so too, in order to “be part of the digital ecosystem” and mostly to “understand it”. “I am not talking about learning to code to become a developer, but to become enlightened rather than blinded deciders”.

With the digital revolution, the definition of leadership has changed

With digital innovations and new technologies, everything is moving faster. Many still see leaders as people able to lead, direct a group or a State, but for Aurélie Jean, this perception is reductive. “In the digital revolution, he must be a superhero” she insists. To be able to project into the future with a shortened time scale, leaders must have at least seven powers. And coding gives you those powers. Aurélie Jean has been a coder for over 15 years in various fields such as digital modeling of the heart and brain or of finance at Bloomberg. She is passionate about mathematics and mechanics and, before explaining what powers coding gives, she introduces herself to explain why she was invited to talk at USI 2017.

“Last year, I developed In Silico Veritas to encourage women to become developers and help businesses. I speak to them about the digital-analytical transformation. It’s an expression I invented to say that the digital transformation is over, but that a more powerful and invisible one is at play, the digital-analytical transformation. A revolution that doesn’t just help us reach users or clients, but also to understand them thanks to data. Data means analytical algorithms and therefore coding”, Aurélie Jean explains. “This transformation is one of the reasons why the leaders of tomorrow must learn coding”, she insists.

The powers of coding

For Aurélie Jean, a leader enlightened by coding has all the assets of a superhero.

  • His first power is “projecting into the future”.
  • Other powers listed by Aurélie Jean are “detecting new talents”, communication and trust. “A leader told me one day: ‘my team trusts me because I know’. And he was right: trust is central. You must be able to answer questions on the digital which you are not used to answer, on technical aspects for example. And again, coding will help you master the topic, develop your self-confidence and understand what the person is talking about”.
  • Another important power to have as a leader is passion. She quotes a decider who was telling her that coding gave her “more passion” because she could see “more possibilities”. Thus, it is by understanding the digital world they live in that leaders can become passionate and identify potential innovations.
  • The last powers identified by Aurélie Jean that are necessary for the leaders of tomorrow are positive leadership, savvy decision-making and critical analysis.

“Today, a decider estimates the costs of a decision. But how can you do that in a field or a context you don’t know? Again, coding can help you better apprehend that ecosystem”.

For Aurélie Jean, the leader of tomorrow isn’t just a leader but a superhero with seven or more powers. For him, coding is “an essential basis to understand and be understood”. It is a knowledge that “teaches you how to think”, as Steve Jobs used to say. By way of conclusion, she encourages leaders to train – in fact, she organizes two-day seminars either alone or with a coach, to “demystify a discipline and understand the underlying mechanisms of a revolution”.

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