Before we get started, I have some preliminary questions…
Do you know the difference between an API and a GUI?
Do you find operating systems unnecessary and think they slow you down?
Is Stack Overflow your home page?
Do you store your family photos on GitHub?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you can take off for a while. Go check out the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Netflix. Already watched them all? Of course you have. How about a Ted Talk on fighting inherent bias in algorithms? Go on. We’ll be here when you get back.
Are they gone? Good. Let’s talk.
The technology gap is compounding. There are more programming jobs than actual programmers. Even traditionally non-tech industries are inundated with new advancements day after day, week after week. As a non-technical person, how do you compete? How do you become a technical person?
After college, I was intimidated by my programmer friends and their high-tech jobs. After confronting my initial fears, I’ve now worked with highly technical documentation for the last 17 years. I have gone from a technical nobody to a technical resource. Here’s how:
- Focus on the concepts – Concentrate on what you can accomplish with the technology, how it’s used, and why it’s better than something else. Don’t let more technical people take you down into the weeds until you understand the concepts. Technical implementation is hard. Understanding technical concepts is not nearly as hard. For instance, I will never be able to personally migrate a set of complex on-prem applications to the cloud. However, I can tell you all about the concept of the cloud and why your apps need to be there.
- Learn the language, talk the talk – Like learning a foreign language, it helps to immerse yourself in the language of technology to become proficient. Don’t be afraid to talk to experts and read technical articles. (BTW, check out Kathryn Courtney’s excellent blog about interviewing technical SMEs.) You may find yourself lost at first, but you will start to learn how the terminology fits the concepts. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself holding your own in even the most technical conversations.
You may never be the kind of person that opens a code editor and feels at home. But, if you follow these steps, you can work alongside and contribute great ideas to those that do.
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