Tech & Work

Geeks should learn communication, so why aren't suits required to learn technology?


In my job, I have to keep close tabs on the statistics surrounding our site usage. I have access to spreadsheets that show every number I could ever want to know and even some I don't want to know. Most of the time, I can extrapolate the info I need, but sometimes the data presents some problem that I can't get to the bottom of. That's when I contact the creator of these spreadsheets, our resident data guru. The problem is I can neither explain the problem I'm seeing nor can I understand the guru's interpretation of the fix.

For example, if I say the numbers from column B in Spreadsheet A don't correspond to those in Spreadsheet C, I'll get an answer somewhere along these lines:

"Feugiat tincidunt interdico decet nobis accumsan defui vereor minim iusto zelus luptatum. Nutus nulla adsum dolore enim opes PIVOT TABLE multo os, ingenium refoveo, ymo aptent. Commoveo commodo validus incassum velit te facilisi nimis autem erat pertineo, autem genitus, qui."

Or at least that's what it sounds like to me. The only term I can discern is "pivot table." (As far as I can tell, a malfunctioning pivot table is the root of all evil.)

In their book, "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," authors Bill Pfleging and Minda Zetlin talk about this same disconnect between office geeks and business people. Those two groups in particular have different skills and personality types, so the divide between them is inevitable.

"The tech worker, the geek, is a problem solver; the businessman, the suit, is a people influencer. The geek likes to fix things, the suit relies more on people skills," said Zetlin. Technology for suits is a "means to an end"-business success-while for geeks (who see themselves as outsiders and artists) it's a "living, breathing thing."

This is one of the reasons you hear so many career professionals advising IT folks to develop good communication skills. The better able you are to interpret what the business folks are asking for and turn it into a useful tool or technology, the better off you'll be.

So should the other side of that equation be the suggestion that business people hone up on their technical skills? Well, you certainly don't hear that as much. Wonder why that is?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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