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posted by n1 on Tuesday August 19 2014, @05:43PM   Printer-friendly
from the put-your-business-head-on dept.

Jon Evans writes at TechCrunch that some extremely successful companies, notably Facebook and Google, are famously engineer-centric, and many, many engineers go on to become successful CEOs. But at many companies engineers are treated as less-than-equal because they are often viewed as idiot savants. "We may speak the magic language of machines, the thinking goes, but we aren’t business people, so we aren’t qualified to make the most important decisions. That’s for the analysts, the product people, the MBAs. They might throw money our way, but they don’t take our opinions seriously, at least not the ones they understand."

Michael O. Church, describes the different experiences of the same candidate applying for a position of “Senior Software Engineer” vs. “VP of Data Science,” a managerial position. "As an engineering candidate, he faced five gruelling technical interviews and was arbitrarily vetoed by the last interviewer. As a managerial candidate, he essentially chatted his way through behavioral questions–and was offered a lucrative position with a generous relocation package. Church argues that this difference is because engineers have low social status, whereas even managerial candidates, one they’ve proven they can talk the talk, are viewed as equals."

Evans says it’s an inevitable side effect of companies who boast completely non-technical managers. "People who have never written code or soldered diodes, who don’t really understand what and how engineers do what we do, have no alternative but to have blind faith in us. Which, paradoxically, leads to less respect, because it’s the root cause of idiot-savant syndrome," writes Evans. "f you’re an engineer who’s treated as automatically lesser than an business graduate or MBA, or worst of all, treated as a cloistered savant, that’s a warning sign. Consider your future carefully if so."

 
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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by jbWolf on Wednesday August 20 2014, @04:46AM

    by jbWolf (2774) <jbNO@SPAMjb-wolf.com> on Wednesday August 20 2014, @04:46AM (#83392) Homepage

    Personal experience says it's a communication issue that is the biggest problem and it's no wonder. Geeks see the world differently than "most people" as do most writers and artists -- and it's quite necessary for those professions. I personally believe it is a manager's job to try to understand the language of the people under them as the amount of stuff the geek has to keep up with is staggering. I also believe it is the geek's responsibility to keep the jargon out of the way when speaking with non-geeks. In other words, there's a good middle somewhere.

    I have a good friend who was very heavy into computers before he became a manager for a few years and he recommended Leading Geeks [amazon.com] by Paul Glen. I read it and it's a very good book. It's written for the manager, but it can also help the geek understand himself and why he has so many communication issues.

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    www.jb-wolf.com [jb-wolf.com]
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  • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Wednesday August 20 2014, @06:45PM

    by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday August 20 2014, @06:45PM (#83649)

    I'm a geek who's had a reasonable amount of success communicating what I'm doing with non-geeks.

    The key concept is really simple: Focus on what it does, not how it does it.

    Wrong: "I'm re-working the Javascript on the flutzit page". That is heard as "I'm [tech] the [tech] on the [something on our website]".
    Right: "I'm making our web user profile faster for iPad users". That is heard as "I'm making our website faster for iPad users".

    Wrong: "This tool scrapes the website, re-formats everything to conform to our data input standards, and inserts it into our database." (Translation: "This [tech] [tech] the website, [tech] everything to [tech] to our [tech] [tech] [tech], and [tech] it into our [tech].")
    Right: "This tool allows us to have the latest user flow information available for our business analytics team."

    By all means, communicate with your fellow geeks using the jargon we all know and love, but if you're talking to business folks the key is to speak what they would understand as English.

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    The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"