The Art of "Techsplaining"
Just today someone I was speaking with brought up a time when they worked retail sales, and we began to reminisce and share old “war stories” of being on the front and center in a retail store. Anyone who knows me personally knows I worked retail for many years and I believe I was considered a valuable employee. I was around for a lot of changes, and even returned a short while ago to assist in training and showing some newer employees how we did things "back in the day". It's interesting to try and meld the old tried and true (to me) with the new and upcoming in not only the procedure side, but also the working and interpersonal side. I enjoyed meeting so many people. I made lifelong friends with some people I worked with; some were in my wedding party. We met good customers, bad customers, rich customers and poor customers, customers with language barriers and even customers with religious and racial barriers. You learn A LOT dealing with people on that scale on a consistent basis. It was extremely helpful in understanding and communicating what someone wants, needs, and what they can afford.
I mentioned earlier I believed I was considered a valuable employee to my retail establishment. This wasn’t because I could sell the best (I couldn’t) or because I was a good leader’ It wasn’t even because I have a ton of knowledge and experience with computer repair. I think what made me personally stand out the most was my ability to talk to people, and actually care about getting them what they desired. I’m not sure what you do for a living, but if you’re good at it, and you talk to someone who has never done it before you start to get this distant, blank sort of stare as your words begin to drown in their subconscious. Maybe you’re a performance car person, and you just got this great new tool that helps determine torque to the wheels, horsepower, and all these little measurements and tweaks that help you make your car just the way you like it. However, if you start explaining all this to an accountant who has driven a Honda Civic since high school and has had it repaired by a shop since they bought it, well you see where I’m going with this…
I learned early on that I couldn’t just bombard people with acronyms and technical details. Not only didn’t they understand it, they didn’t care. “I just need a computer that I can browse the internet on.” That person didn’t want to hear about the new clock speeds of the DDR2 RAM (showing my age a little here) that the system shipped with. The next person that came in though, they may have been a gamer, and they DID care about that RAM and the latency it was rated for. This became even clearer when I started working in the services area. That’s a whole different level. Now you are not just getting someone something that’s going to work out of the box, now you have to explain to them why it’s not working anymore and how you are going to fix it. To make it even harder, you have to convince them enough to give you money for it. This is where the whole aspect of “Techsplaining” comes into the picture.
Two ways to understand the same words, and its only one way to explain it. Datacenter would be another, or Server Room.
In short, Techsplaining is simply, explaining technology. Its creating terms that your audience understands and can relate to when it comes to something highly technical. I used to explain the internet speeds to plumbers by telling them it was like having a larger pipe to let more water through at one time. I would tell construction workers that multi-core processors were like having 4 guys build one wall. When a cop would come in with a computer virus, I would tell him it’s like burglar who never the house. Some of these seems silly, but it helped them understand, and it helped me bring them to my level, because they left understanding more than when they came. This whole concept is different now, because I primarily do it on an enterprise level. I have to explain why I pick certain technology and what it does for us now and in the future. I have to justify why it the right choice. I may have to do that to someone who doesn’t work IT, and never has before. I have to tell them why the extra money for high speed drives is worth it for the operating end of our vmWare vSphere infrastructure. I also have to make their needs, wants, and dreams come true with these systems. There is a lot of planning and a lot of using some of the consumer explanations and some of the enterprise explanations every day.
This information is something I want anyone to keep in mind while they pick someone to do their IT work. These informative posts are not just sales pitches. I may not be the best fit for you, or your company. I certainly don’t know everything. However, I need to make sure you know that someone who claims to know everything and someone who is unwilling to help you understand this technology you are buying is a HUGE red flag in this industry. Some people in this industry try to keep you in the dark about what they are doing and what’s possible, because it saves them time and work for the same price. I’ve seen people explain something the most technical way possible as to why something couldn’t be done, but all along what the client wanted for a setup was what the system was designed to do. Keep in mind that having a little understanding, and someone to have the patience to explain it, can go a long way.