How Many Languages Do You Speak?

One of the most essential skills you must possess as a tech lead is the ability to translate between the language of business and the language of technology.

Your team is filled with great technical minds ready to solve any and all problems. If you’ve ever been a developer, you’ll relate to this. Your client gets in touch with a new feature, you’re listening attentively. Three sentences in you feel a shift in your mind…

“How am I going to build that? We planned only to allow one notification method from the original spec.”

“It’ll probably be easiest to sign up for Stripe for that because they accept ApplePay using the same API.”

“I wonder if I could build this in React…”

Now, look at the same examples from your client’s perspective. The purpose of this project to them isn’t about code, design patterns, or frameworks, it’s about making more money, saving more time, and reducing risk.

“If we add SMS notifications we’ll get a better response rate.”

“We’re finding that due to our high iOS device traffic that accepting ApplePay would reduce our cart abandonment rates.”

“We want to have an app-like experience but don’t have the budget to build for iOS and Android.”

We’re talking about the same projects here, but the language (and focus) is different. This is where you come in as a technical leader to bridge the gap.

Listen to your client, question them, and capture their desired business outcomes using their jargon (KPIs, conversions, churn). Now, go to your team, translate, and devise a plan of attack in their language (Stories, APIs, Micro-services). There will assuredly be things you haven’t considered (remember, staying humble?) and so the cycle repeats. Translate the technical feedback your team surfaces to stakeholders in their business terms.

Most clients don’t want to know how load balancing is going to be a better long-term direction for scalability. Similarly, developers don’t care about why you want to A/B test the homepage copy.

As a tech lead, you are the glue between two separate worlds. You need to be able to speak both languages equally well and translate on-the-fly.

I offer training on speaking multiple languages as well as many of the other skills involved in becoming a high-quality technical leader in my Software Leadership Advisory Program. If this could be helpful to your team, get in touch and let’s discuss if it could be a good fit.