After almost two decades of working closely with diverse types of techs, I’ve slowly found myself transforming from a nice, sweet, agreeable person to “Saturday Night Live’s” Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy.
What I have witnessed has not been pleasant — grown adults acting like 5-year-old children, and then blaming their techs for responding snarkily.
As the digital divide widens, tensions in offices across the globe also rise, leading to an epidemic of “tech hating.” You could partake in this phenomena, or accept that the success of your work is dependent on your ability to understand basic tech principles and maintain healthy relationships with your techs. Most importantly, accept that your approach may be pissing off any tech-savvy staff in a 5-mile radius. Here’s a bit of advice to get you on the right path.
1. Let Me Google That for You
If you’re constantly asking the same questions or bothering people with queries that could be answered with a simple Google search, don’t be surprised if you find yourself on the techie blacklist. No one wants to feel their time is being wasted, but this is especially true for individuals whose whole career focus is improving efficiency. If your page gives you a 404, contact them. If you don’t want to take the time to learn how to use basic tools in a user-friendly CMS (content management system), that’s an epic fail. Start taking responsibility for your technology education. The world is changing, and assuming you don’t have to invest time in learning and adapting is not only stupid, but career suicide.
2. Stop Treating Technical Staff Like “The Help”
I find it quite comical that some people treat their techs in an authoritative tone. Not only do most techies operate in a collaborative fashion, the field seems to attract individuals with high IQs who have little appreciation for frivolous formality. In other words, your top-to-bottom management approach is not going to get you anywhere fast. Learn to recognize that most techs are professional artisans who are quite obsessive about “owning” the area they specialize in.
3. Don’t Try to Manage Areas You Have No Expertise In
If you are “that person” who argues with the tech staff over things you clearly have no expertise in, stop immediately. Not only are you probably making a complete fool of yourself, you’re burning bridges that you will never be able to fix. While it’s important to be creative and experimental when approaching technology, it is still a “science” that has best practices. Your ability to surf the Internet does not make you a web expert, just like your ability to set up your home printer doesn’t make you a system administrator. Of course, not every techie is perfect, and some situations may require you to challenge them. In those situations, it’s better in the long run to reach out to outside experts or educate yourself thoroughly before embarking on a debate.
4. Lay Off the Salesmen Tactics
Techies are persuaded by data and proven skill. Using salesmanship, charm, and old-school PR tactics is a sure way to ruin your chances of a healthy relationship. In fact, those type of tactics go in total opposition of tech culture. Take the evolution of the Internet, for example. In many ways, it seems that innovation is the result of techs trying to get away from marketers who always saturate the latest “cool” thing.
5. Techies Are Not Mind Readers: Provide Detail
People act in weird ways when they need technical support, including losing all communication skills. Saying the “banner is not working” does not provide your tech with a solid place to start quickly and effectively solve your issue. Learn to provide as much detail as possible, including links, screenshots, and anything else that might be useful. Technology isn’t a neat puzzle — it’s a chaotic system that is constantly changing. Like detectives, techies need all the clues they can get to conduct a proper investigation and come up with an effective solution. If you don’t provide such detail, the only thing you’re doing is prolonging the process.
6. Become Comfortable with Transparency and Criticism
Tech environments can be seen as very harsh by non-techies. Besides being highly collaborative and fast-paced, they’re considered rough around the edges because of their lack of formality and focus on radical transparency. In other words, people generally say exactly what they think and mean. Many of these characteristics can be attributed to the needs techs are trying to meet. A broken website needs to be fixed immediately; there’s no room for bureaucracy or egos in problem-solving. Additionally, many techs are very logical, approaching even personal conversations from that framework. While for many, this may prove to be the hardest characteristic to adapt to, consider this: Interacting with them will make you more thick-skinned and improve your logic or problem-solving skills.
7. Techs Have the Upper Hand; Make Peace with It
Technology has disrupted the world, particularly in the way we do business, requiring many organizations to start running more like a software or Internet company. This is particularly true in the media world where print is seen as a dinosaur and the web is the main publishing platform. The power structure has shifted. Techs have the upper hand, and complaining about it isn’t going to change the reality. In fact, resisting change requires more energy then accepting and adapting, with obviously the latter being more beneficial to you in the long run.
Solution: Learning Can be Fun!
The time to hide in a corner and hope that the digital tsunami will miss you is long gone. Everyone must start taking responsibility for their individual training, which includes embracing tech culture, learning to speak the language, and having a basic understanding of the challenges they face.
Instead of seeing this as a nightmarish process, learn to have fun with it. Why not volunteer for an open-source community such as Joomla, a popular CMS? Many of these communities are staffed by diverse volunteers located throughout the world, and are concerned with much more than just developing the software. The best part — you don’t have to be a techie since volunteers are needed in all areas ranging from accountants to writers. Not only will you be surprised by how much you’ll learn, but your increased tech skills will allow you to create cool projects focused on what you’re passionate about.
Sandra Ordonez is a web astronaut who provides digital strategy, collaborative consultation, community management, and website design. Currently, Sandra serves as the Senior Digital Strategist to Digital U NYC and TopMBA Connect. She also serves as the External Communications lead for Joomla. Sandra is the founder of various online worlds including Virgins of NY. Previously, she was the Communications Manager for Wikipedia. She graduated from American University with a double degree in International Relations and Public Relations.