I find myself drifting into a managerial role in Software Development. Sometimes half of my day is spent chasing down updates from developers and helping them with issues they got stuck on. I am going through withdrawals leaving my primary role as a developer and I am trying to figure out how to manage this but I digress...
One of the biggest issues I have with developer updates is that a lot of the time it is in a code... and when I say code I am not talking about a certain programming language, I mean some cryptic jargon that inspires its listener's eyes to glaze over and just zone out of the conversation. This is not good.
There are three main causes of this behavior:
1. The developer is bad at communicating
2. The developer is in too deep in the project and does not realize his current choice of words are out of context
3. The developer is trying to confuse you in order to avoid answering your questions
I cannot stress enough the importance of communication skills as a developer. I am personally guilty of behavior 1,2 and 3 in my life as a developer and I can give first-hand accounts of the benefits of cutting that shit out.
Be a good communicator: The biggest contract I have gotten from a single client can be attributed partly to effective communication. Part of the success of that project was that the client just understood me. Her developers at the time kept sending her cryptic updates. She was not tech savvy and just felt bulldozed by all the tech lingo they threw at her and all the things they told her were technically impossible. She later explained to me that speaking with me was a breath of fresh air because no question she asked was stupid. She said I explained things clearly to her and the fact I took time out to explain complicated concepts to her rather than looking irritated made her happy and want to work with me. I have found being able to explain complex concepts simply signals to the listener a deep understanding of the subject and actually inspires more confidence in you as a developer than most think. This is why the book Thing Explainer was one of Bill gates favorite books of 2015.
Be aware of the context you are in while communicating: It is quite normal to talk to others like they were developers after you have been staring at code for 8 hours. It is even worse when you are stuck on something for a long time and your mind is spinning. I sucked at this, I would ramble tech terms as I tried to explain what the status of a project was, or even worse I would say "Never mind" and remain in that hole. Once I started taking a step back, organizing my thoughts, calm down and try to explain it in plain English (analogies helped). I found my managers at the time started trusting me more, if I was stuck I would plainly say I am stuck and say what I was trying to do to get unstuck. The fact my updates were easy to digest usually allowed them to tell me to just send email updates rather than having daily meetings, cause they were sure when I was done talking they would rarely have any more follow up questions. This is also why I write this Blog, it allows me now (Since I don't have a "Boss") to break down concepts into simple forms.
As for number 3. Stop it!. Crime doesn't pay. You will be found out and your reputation will be shot. It is hard to come back from having the reputation of a liar.
“Don’t ever play yourself.”- DJ Khaleed 🗝
So how did I learn to communicate better? I read books, at first it was painful, I was not built this way but over time as I saw the results and how it affected my relationships with clients, I began to see the value. Some of the books that helped were: How to win friends and influence people, Show your work and Thing Explainer
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