Something that should be obvious about a conference for nonprofit technologists is that there was no lack of geeky conversation, ever, anywhere.  It was wonderful!  But, one thing that I thought was important to bring up and great that it was brought up in some of the sessions, was that we have to remember these few days of utopia are numbered, and normally we aren’t able to have the same kinds of conversations with the same kinds of vocabulary and assumed knowledge.

When we are working in offices at nonprofits or other philanthropic organizations, or consulting with these groups, we need to approach conversations in a different way, to avoiding losing people in our techie conversation.  How do you do that?

  • Don’t worry about avoiding conversations! Instead of agonizing over a conversation to leadership about needing $10k, find a way to start a conversation about how that investment can make the staff’s work more effective or efficient, or save money elsewhere.
  • Recognize the differences!  Talking to a fellow techie about new software, platforms, products, etc. can be great but so can conversations about those things with staff so long as you recognize the difference between features and benefits—tech people care about features, no one else does.  This goes for conversations with leadership, buy-in, training, etc.
  • Express what you want clearly! It is fine to ask for or recommend new budget items, upgrades, uses, or strategies; it’s more than fine, it’s your job!  But know your strengths and how to work within them so that what you are asking for and why is clear.
  • Don’t be a cheerleader for the accomplishment! You should, of course, always recognize accomplishments throughout your organization, including the technology department.  But, as a leader (and not just a techie) you should work to cheer on the people, the work and the tools instead of just the end accomplishments.  After all, it was the people, their hard work, and the tools chosen that got to that goal!

What kinds of conversations have you had as the “techie” (accidental or not!) and what results did you have?  How were you able to have the most “successful” conversations with your leadership or staff when dealing with technical matters?

Reflections on NTC: Lost in [tech] conversation
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  • podnosh

    I think it helps to not always have the answers. With some people I have worked for you pique their interest and enthusiasm when you say: “I’m not sure how to solve that one, but I’m sure we can figure it out.” Discovery sticks in a way training doesn’t.