Communicating with Your Tech Guys

For the past several days, I’ve been working in a client’s office, helping her get her online catalog set up. She has a fresh new website, nicely optimized for SEO, and all we need to do is put in her products.

Notice that “all we need to do..” We had actually imagined that we’d be able to hire a data entry person to do this. “You don’t want to pay me to do that,” I said. “You can hire a college kid at minimum wage and get all that done as soon as I have it set up.”

It wasn’t like that. Setting it up wasn’t as simple as we had imagined. The client had some changes she wanted made to the website. There were some bugs in the system. The machine wouldn’t go any faster than one SKU per six minutes and insisted on being refreshed in between all entries.

I mean, I might like to be refreshed between entries, too, but you don’t see me refusing to work and handing out error messages right and left, do you?

And the tech guys were saying things like “Name servers” and “back end” and “transfer lock.”

The client was feeling a bit stressed. Like maybe she needed to be refreshed, too.

I did the only thing possible. “Shut down and have lunch,” I said. “It’ll probably be fine when we start up again.”

This is, as we all know, a useful trick for communicating with tech devices. Does it work with tech guys? Will a sandwich make it possible to get things done when it seems impossible?

I have one particular tech guy whom I’ve been asking to correct an address on an inside page of a client’s website for three months. I don’t think any amount of sandwiches, even with bacon, will help with that. But some communication issues aren’t about lack of cooperation or a need for refreshment. They’re about language. Sometimes tech guys don’t realize that they’re saying things in special ways that other people don’t understand.

How can you best communicate with your tech guys?

  • Recognise that jargon is often the issue. All businesses have their own jargon. “Name servers” isn’t actually more difficult than terms like “trade books,” “vermiculite,” or “SKUs.” It’s just that we get used to our own jargon. When your tech guys use terms you don’t know, speak up boldly and ask what the word means. Not knowing what a name server is doesn’t make you stupid any more than not knowing what sforzando is, so don’t be shy about that.
  • Realize that some concepts are hard to understand. Sometimes you don’t even need to understand them. Ask for a metaphor: “Is this something like a delicate mechanism so I have to follow the steps exactly?” Say, “Are we talking about a physical object here?” Or even, “Do I need to understand this?”
  • Be clear on your preferences. I have to make a guess when I start working with a client on how much they want things quantified. I may start with, “Your traffic is steadily increasing; do you want the numbers?” or I may offer to send a spreadsheet. When a client informs me that I’m making her feel like her head is about to explode or that he really doesn’t care what I do so long as the orders come in, then I can back off. Feedback makes that possible.

A little persistence can work wonders in communicating with your tech guys.






2 responses to “Communicating with Your Tech Guys”

  1. Deepa Avatar

    Great Post Rebecca,
    I have come across clients who get overwhelmed even before the communication starts, thinking ” I am not going to understand one word this guy is going to tell me”.

    Allow me, who mostly deals with little bit of tech jargons myslelf to share my expereinces.

    There are typically 2 types of tech guys.
    1. the very moment they realise the other person is not so techsavy ….They know the stuff, and talk in “english” .. ie to say translate the technical jargon.

    And then there is the other type,
    The moment the tech guy realises that jargon is giving the jitters, he would invariably use them in such a manner it will put any SEO expert to shame. After all, it is , “it know something, that you have no clue about”, kind of attitude.

    So best way to deal with them is exactly as you suggest .. “speak out that you dont understand jargons. ask for a meaningful translation”.

    Very informative post.
    Loved it,

  2. rebecca Avatar

    Thanks. The best advice is probably to choose one of those tech guys who can switch to English, though you can’t always identify them ahead of time.
    For a lot of my clients, the approach of choice is to have me help with the communication, and that’s fine, but there are a lot of folks out there who feel that a modern person ought to know those terms, and they hesitate to admit that they don’t.
    And that can really set them up for the unscrupulous ones you mention. I really hadn’t thought of that, but it’s certainly true that the jargon can be used to bamboozle people.

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