Software development is story telling

Software developers have a difficult time discussing the details of their work with people outside the field. Their “functional” colleagues don’t want to understand anything “too technical” and there often isn’t a real interest in listening and learning. Why can’t people just put in a little more effort and at least try to understand the issues?

We are not unique in that regard. Most technical professionals face a communication barrier. Doctors, lawyers and accountants fight a similar uphill battle.

When I’m on the phone with a car repair shop, I don’t want to hear how the transmogulator vent spilt hogwash in the grabulator. I don’t care about their smoke screens. I just want to know how much it costs to have it fixed.

As a customer, that’s perfectly fine. As a colleague of that mechanic, not so much.

Here’s the thing. I truly appreciate it when my accountant explains my tax codes like I’m 5. When a surgeon walks me through a medical procedure instead of leaving me worried in the dark. If most software experts throw up smoke screens, it’s your opportunity to stand out!

Academic writers expect their audience to work. If you don’t understand my paper on Quantum Physics, it’s because you didn’t work hard enough to study the field. It’s your fault for being ignorant.

Novelists turn that around. When Stephen King writes a novel, he works hard to drag you in. When he loses his audience, it’s his mistake. His main job is to captivate your attention.

When a tester has only a limited idea of what caching is, make sure to explain it to her. Not in a condescending way, but in the way a good writer would entertain an audience. Talk about the why. Provide context. Show her what it means to her. Make sure your audience wants to come back for more.

It doesn’t matter whether your audience is senior managers or junior developers. Getting your colleagues to care is a professional superpower. If you can get your audience hooked, you can build anything.

Building software is hard, but don't let that stop you.

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