Translating Tech: Working with non-technical co-workers–Speak their language

We’ve all been there. Sitting in a meeting, carefully explaining what it is that, “you do.” Defining acronyms, using kludged paraphrasing, and ham-fisted allegories. Sometimes, it feels like you’re speaking a different language. Well, on a certain level, that’s exactly what is happening.

The best translators I’ve met speak both (or more) languages fluently. If you’ve ever wondered what that “Other duties as required” part of your job was, this falls under that.

Why do you need to speak your co-workers language? Your co-workers are going to be at least a little uncomfortable trying to wrap their heads around a new concept. Learning is hard, after all. By using methods and language they are familiar with, you raise their comfort levels. Does the group you’re working with use PowerPoint a lot? Then don’t walk into a meeting expecting just to show your IDE and start talking. Work within their comfort zone. If someone has to work hard, it should be you.

This also means doing your research. Before the meeting, have a co-worker look over the presentation, documentation, or simply listen to what you’ll be saying. This is a chance for you to make sure you won’t be floundering in the middle of a time sensitive situation.

What do you do if you’re not familiar with the group’s standard methods? Time to leverage those soft skills and talk to the group. Ask for the most recent slide decks (if they’re appropriate), run the talk past the manager, or volunteer to do a short talk a few days or weeks before the main event. Think of it as a UAT situation and iterate based on the results.

This entry was posted in Meta-coding, Social, Translating Tech, Workplace. Bookmark the permalink.

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