How To Stay Alive in the Tech Company as a Liberal Arts Major
Rising Importance of Multifaceted Communications
- How can a liberal arts college graduate like me survive in the tech industry?
- Be curious
- Learn to speak in multiple specialties
- Enhance your communication skills
When it comes to my career, curiosity has always been my driving force. Because I was curious about the complexity behind data technology and the dynamics of the business, I have played the role of technical communicator between internal engineers and external clients. As a sociology major from a liberal arts college, positioning myself as a technical communicator is what helped me to survive in the data tech industry filled with STEM majors and engineers.
People like me are called as many different titles: Technical Account Managers, Sales Engineers, Solutions Architects, Technical Product Managers, Integration Specialists, etc. But they all have the capacity to understand the technologically complicated product and interpret it in different languages of expertise. Ultimately, they are technical communicators who bridge the gap between technology and other stakeholders in the tech industry.
The importance of technical communicators is growing every day, and that importance is also highlighted in a Netflix film called “Don’t Look Up.” It portrays the potential challenges that scientists may face to save humanity from the meteor apocalypse. We all expect to be humble in front of the scientific truth, but in the era of post-truth, only its interpretation matters. Politicians need votes, entrepreneurs need money, media need views, celebrities need fame, and scientists need discoveries. What drives people crazy is that, depending on what value that people pursue, each speaks in a different language.
Scientists of “Don’t Look Up” failed to communicate in the language of mass media. In the language of science, there is no 100%. Scientists speak, “There is a 99.7% chance that the meteor hits Earth,” but never 100%. But when it comes to the language of mass media, one should have said that “There is a 100% chance that a meteor WILL hit!” But as long as you are a scientist, you cannot speak that way, because it is considered erroneous in their world. What they can do is to find an effective communicator who understands both science and mass media and speak on each other’s behalf.
The same challenge applies to the tech company according to my observations, especially when the product is highly technical. Under the umbrella of one organization, different departments have their own values to measure their success. The business team prioritizes revenue and profit. The engineering team focuses on the performance and efficiency of the company’s technology. But if the business team does not understand the technological values like performance metrics or backend architecture, they cannot set a successful sales strategy. On the other end, if the engineering team does not understand the business values like resource limitations and market trends, they cannot develop a winning product.
However, reality prevents us from becoming experts in multiple fields at the same time. It is hard to achieve and also very inefficient. That is why amazing sales leads should stay in the sales team, and genius engineers should stay in the engineering team. Today, instead of expecting everyone to juggle multiple skillsets, companies started to hire specialists and those with hybrid skillsets and effective communication skills to fill the disparities between various specialties. They shall help different stakeholders of a singular specialty to set correct priorities and expectations to make sure the company as a whole reaches its goal. Those people like… me!
I am not saying having technical communicators is an absolute necessity nor guaranteeing entrepreneurial success in the tech industry. However, it definitely helps the company to be more agile. A company with technical communicators can catch the new demand in the market ahead of time, minimize internal conflicts, and pivot quickly. In a highly volatile market situation like 2022 today, the company’s ability to act fast often determines the company’s fate. Based on my experience, the majority of tech companies that I met as clients have someone like Solutions Architects or Sales Engineers in the sales department to quickly interpret the language of engineering at sales.
If you have multiple passions and talents and one of them is technology, I advise you to consider becoming a multifaceted technical communicator in the tech industry. In my case, I was interested in human interactions and technology, so I majored in sociology/anthropology at liberal arts college and took a coding boot camp during the summer. I am having so much fun learning about complex technology and interpreting it for others. And I was lucky enough to launch my post-college career when the industry started to need people like me.