Being a specialist in a non-specialist environment

Being a specialist in a non-specialist environment – how to communicate to people who are not IT literate– How to communicate to people who are not IT literate

We do suffer from the over application of stereotypes in the IT world don’t we? For most people, Moss and Roy in the ‘IT crowd’ are pretty much what is expected when you say you work in the Tech sector. It is frustrating at times, but at the risk of being a bit contentious, is it also be a little bit of our own fault?


We see many IT specialists here at Proactive.IT and one thing that unites them, regardless of their area of expertise, is that they are uniformly dedicated. You simply cannot be in the IT sector and not be totally committed to your job and the wider industry because it moves too fast. The constant change in the mechanics of a technology-based employment arena requires that those within it are deeply embedded in it. As a result, we live, breath and talk IT and it is with the latter where we perhaps occasionally need to apply a little more empathy in the workplace when dealing with less IT literate people.

  • Acronyms need to be demystified. While most people will think to explain the lesser known or more specialist acronyms because they stand out and are often a focus, we tend to notice the more used and older ones less. There is no guarantee the listener will know what they mean so they need explaining or at least checking if people are familiar with them. There is no point in explaining your IT strategy if the listener is completely baffled by a common term such as SQL. Take a moment to check if they know it means structured query language and how that relates to the conversation.
  • Repeat, give time and reinforce. Remember you have been using the language of IT for years. To you, it is second nature and it flows as easily as a multi-linguist switching tongues. Take the time to repeat information, preferably in a different way, give time for the information to be absorbed and reinforce what it means.
  • Think like a doctor. When you visit a health professional they will usually take the time to make sure you understand. Leaflets and other information supplies are written in plain language for the same reason. Their aim is to inform you about your condition in a way you will understand.
  • Apply a practical outcome. One thing that everyone understands is the result of an action. While we may not be able to refine petrol we all know that what happens when we press accelerator in our cars is the physical result of it being used. Try to introduce IT concepts and ideas in the same way. Our candidates who work in sales do this day in and day out because in the end nobody really buys anything unless they see the benefit of it. On the subject of the physical results…
  • Let people play with things. Most people learn best by doing, so give people access to the tech and explain while they are using it.

We all want to be heard

We all want to be heard and be recognised for our expertise and skills but unless you are communicating effectively, you are not really being seen for your talents properly. In the workplace, and worse still in an interview setting, you want to be heard and not baffle the listener.

Share this article