Showing that fear of mediocrity can make the world a better place.

A technical person’s greatest asset

The ability to communicate is a technical person’s greatest asset. The easiest way to think about your communications is to break them into three components.

Listen

It can be difficult but you have to listen without presuming anything. You have to listen for the nuances before you settle on a solution. It can be tempting to think you immediately grasp the entire idea or have a solution that fits. Odds are you missed the key detail that takes an idea from basic to interesting. If you aren’t listening you might miss the piece that you can innovate around or build a new system from. Make sure you are listening without your ego. Your ego tends to hear things that make you sound awesome but it’s usually wrong.

Speak

If you can’t communicate and reason about your solution with the client and others working on it then the solution is bound to be a point of contention and frustration. If you can’t communicate your vision and share your beautiful view of the code then you are limiting the chances that it will be accepted by others. Someone has a problem that can be solved in your medium. It’s your job to communicate the capabilities of the medium if they don’t fit the client’s problem. Don’t build a toilet out of paper mache. Either learn porcelain or find someone who does and communicate why it’s the best tool for the job. As a technical person it’s your job to provide feedback and guide what the client wants. Having them be involved in the solution is the professional way to work with them. Letting them drive the solution and the implementation is the unprofessional way.

Act

Actions speak louder than words is the cliched phrase for this situation but it’s true. If you speak of grand design and beautiful things then be prepared to back it up and act accordingly. If you speak of integrity and then take shortcuts with your work then you are sending mixed messages. If you want to improve quality but don’t practice any method of automated testing then you might as well keep your mouth shut. Any negative action can nullify the best intentioned speech.

Well rounded

If you listen to others, clearly communicate your ideas and designs, and act with integrity matching your speaking then you will have effectively communicated with those involved. Many project failures have poor communication to blame. If you want your project to succeed and to have more time to focus on your technical chops then sharpen your communication skills. It’s an investment that will pay off over time.

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