I’ve spent many years in dedicated technical roles and dedicated business roles. One of the biggest challenges facing productivity of an organization that employs both is communication. Communication between business and tech is unfortunately often avoided because neither one seems to know much about the other. Additionally, when attempts are made, information is often lost in translation because they don’t speak each other’s language very well.
I’m going to help you avoid all of that by offering a few tips (7 to be exact) to make sure you don’t fall into these unfortunate routines. I’m here to tell you there’s hope and the best thing you can do is keep an open mind.
#1 – (All) Techies are Not Robots
It’s the same thing I tell my friends that want to strike up a conversation with someone of the opposite sex. Talk to them like they’re a human. Your tech crowd might seem like they run on electricity, but I can promise that many of us have personality! Just be yourself and start a natural conversation like you would with anyone else.
#2 – Make an Effort
Whenever I visit French speaking countries I often see American tourists having a rough time trying to communicate. This is usually because they just assume everyone speaks English, which they typically do, but that’s not the point. If instead, you attempt to speak at least a little French first it is interpreted as a sign of respect and you will often be more well received. The same goes for your technical workforce. Make them believe you care about what they’re doing and you’ll often get a better reaction. You don’t have to be writing code to demonstrate that you care, just take an interest to learn something about what your technical friends do on a daily basis and learn as they geek out explaining the finer details to you.
#3 – Don’t Fake It
If you don’t know what you’re talking about – don’t fake it. The easiest way to lose respect from a tech crowd is to pretend like you know what you’re talking about. By design, a technical person can be a stickler for the details (after all it’s their job) so they will know right away if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Hopefully they will call you out on it, if not, that’s definitely worse. It’s best to avoid this move altogether.
#4 – Techies Appreciate the Business
Technology folks not caring about the business is majorly a stereotype. Believe me, we care. Oftentimes if it weren’t for sales, our jobs wouldn’t exist. Techies appreciate the business. They just want to feel like the business appreciates them. Don’t be afraid to complement your engineers and developers every now and then. Remember how stoked you and your friends at work were when you landed that huge deal? Well if you’re selling something technical that deal would have been tough to close if the product didn’t kick ass. Share the love.
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#5 – Techies Want to be Included
Despite another all too common stereotype, techies enjoy learning about the business. Technical folks like me love learning in general, but especially if it means learning more about where our paychecks come from. I’ve seen lots of great companies purposefully connect their technical audience with customers. It gives them great insight into how the company works and gives them a chance to communicate with the people that benefit from the products they spend so much time building.
#6 – Keep an Open Mind
Not every technical person you speak to is going to be the friendliest person in the world, but who cares? That doesn’t mean the person sitting right next to them doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. Focus on the positive and build relationships with people who rock, regardless of what kind of work they do.
#7 – The Golden Rule
It doesn’t get any simpler than treating people the way you’d like to be treated. This one has rarely failed me. Even if I get snotty responses I still do my best to maintain my composure. It can only benefit you to take the high road. Techies aren’t robots to be fed coffee and pizza to output working code. If you need updates from them, first ask if they had a good weekend. Showing genuine interest in the person can go a long way.
The bottom line is you don’t need to be an engineer to communicate effectively with a technical audience. Use these tips as a guide and you will be just fine. Remember don’t give up! Making an effort is half the battle. Plus it’s always good to have tech friends!
If you’d like to learn more about product management or talk more about the services I offer as a consultant please visit our NxtStep website or reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep disrupting.