People in business need to understand what’s going on out there in the world of technology. A lot of time you can’t really leave the technology decision-making to the pure technological person.”
In other words, technology skills — beyond the obvious ones such as how to use Microsoft Office or Google — aren’t just for techies. Many jobs now require knowledge of more involved technologies, such as Web analytics and online databases. Those who are adept with technology — or who aren’t afraid of it, at least — can leverage their knowledge by serving as much-needed liaisons with technical personnel or by devising new ways to grow a business or cut costs.
A number of other factors support why you should stay up-to-date with technology and enhance your tech skills. These include:
- The significant role technology plays in managing organizations and reaching customers.
- Customers’ widespread use of technology in their personal and professional lives.
- The ease of using some technology, such as blogs and podcasts.
Technology Behind the MotherHood
Take Lisa Duggan, publisher of the MotherHood, a local parenting magazine in New Jersey. Though ad sales and editorial decisions are her primary focus, Duggan also needs to know Web production and keep abreast of emerging technologies. With technology so central to her readers’ lives, she has to find ways to reach them beyond the print magazine, she says.
“I knew that if I wanted to reach the demographic in this area, I had to have a Web site that was up, that had all of the information about the magazine and that was a little bit exciting,” she says. “It couldn’t just be a placeholder.”
She built the site on her own and plans to investigate incorporating other forms of media, such as podcasts and blogs.
Bridge to a New Career?
Nontechies occasionally gain enough technical expertise to move into jobs as technical liaisons, sometimes called business analysts, Zetlin notes. In one case cited in her book, a worker in the financial-services industry with no technology training began learning about his company’s computer systems to gain better access to information stored on the corporate mainframes. With his newfound knowledge, he helped a manager generate financial reports more quickly. “A report that had previously taken six weeks for six people to compile could be completed by one person in a day and a half,” according to the book. “A new go-between career was born.”
While some nontechies delve into technology because they have an affinity for it, others gain expertise because their jobs come to require it. What’s more, anyone who can understand the language of technical professionals, as well as have a sense of the challenges they face, will have a leg up in the inevitable discussions about how technology can serve business.
The dissociation between the suits and the techies can hold a company back, and the problem isn’t as simple as the techies having their own language, Pfleging says. “The nontechnical business folks ask things of techies without knowing what they’re asking, or they may not know how to ask what they really need,” he says. Translators can help bridge that gap. “They can speak the language of the techies,” Pfleging notes. “They can connect the dots.”
Build Your Tech Skill Set
If you want to add a technical dimension to your career, Pfleging and Zetlin recommend:
- Taking technology courses, such as a programming course, to get a better sense of how technology is created and functions.
- Building relationships with the technologists in your organization.
- Staying abreast of the latest trends, such as the influence of the open-source movement.
- Visiting Web sites with a technical focus, such as CNET and TechRepublic.