6 Tips for Explaining Your Technical Job to Non-Tech Individuals

If you are one of the approximate 7.3 million U.S. workers employed in the tech industry, you have likely been called upon to describe the details of your job to an individual who may not have the technical savvy or expertise to understand exactly what it is you do, or what you’re aiming to achieve.

In simple terms, it’s important for those on the other side of the technological fence to understand your role as a member of the tech community. Whether you are organizing a presentation for coworkers, preparing for a job interview, or even explaining to friends and family what it is you do for a living, you may want to follow some basic guidelines to ensure that the other party isn’t tuned out after your first sentence.

Explaining Tech Jobs - IT Employee

1.  Practice empathy.

Words and phrases that are commonplace in your daily vocabulary among colleagues are likely to sound like another language to non-tech individuals. Imagine yourself in the shoes of the person with whom you are speaking. Visualizing yourself in a position far beyond  your own comfort zone may help you to remember the importance of toning down your “industry jargon”. To assist in the process, visit sites such as Whatis.com to learn alternative ways of expressing technical terms.

2.  Focus on people, not systems.

Humanizing technical processes helps those who are less technically inclined gain a better understanding of your explanations. Keep people at the focal point of your conversation, rather than codes and systems. Instead of describing the actions of a particular system, convey how the system will assist the user. Also, speaking in terms of sorting information, instead of  characteristically advanced coding lingo, will help the other individual relate on an uninitiated basis.

3.  Understand the needs of those you are developing for.

If it is your responsibility to develop an application for a customer or group of coworkers, make sure you are tuned in to their particular requisites. Sit down with them, ask questions, and talk about what would make their experience more efficient and productive. Then, apply this information to your methods.

4.  Engage your listener.

Prior to an important technical presentation, experiment with alternative forms of media to get your point across. Don’t be afraid to get creative:  Anecdotes, graphics, props, and other audio/visual tools can all help you connect with your listeners.

5.  Create a website.

You may find that your explanations could be enhanced or solidified by an adjunct resource. Creating a user-friendly website that clearly depicts the workings of a new application or further describes your own technical role within a company can offer your addressees an indispensible point of reference.

6.  Seek instruction.

Explaining technical subjects in a nontechnical way is certainly not an easy task. In fact, tech workers who are well-steeped in their careers may find it almost as difficult as translating native speech into a foreign language. Seek out seminars, classes, and reading materials to help heighten your non-tech communication skills.

Explaining Tech Jobs - Computer coding screen and glasses

In Summary

What’s most important is that technical workers view their nontechnical communication skills as a vital component of their job. Teaching others to understand your world is just as important as the creation of the very systems it encompasses.


Fred Coon, CEO

At SC&C we offer Career Analysis to help senior decision-makers from all walks of life identify strategies and tactics to increase their value-add employment potential.