5 Ways to Overcome being Non-technical at a Tech Company

5 Ways to Overcome being Non-technical at a Tech Company

 There is no difference between the product and marketing at a software company. We must identify pains (solved by the product), create thought leadership (on topics around the pains that are solved by the product) and of course, sell the product itself. As the Product Marketer for a SaaS business, the very nature of my role is to translate the technical aspects of the product (what is and how it works) to why it matters for the target audience. And as a non-technical person, this can be a challenge.   

“You’re barking up the wrong tree, this doesn’t affect me!” (Why it actually matters)

You’re not technical and that’s not what they hired you for. But even if you’re not a Product Marketer whose job is to ask tough questions to devs, product managers and the like, you may have your own unique situation where having a little more technical knowledge would really help you out. Here are some general ways it might help you -

  • Confidence: focus on your craft because that’s why they hired you, but have confidence in all areas of the business so that you can execute your craft really well.  
  • Understanding: know what you need to know and filter out the noise so you have a handle on the the salient points.
  • Decision making: you’ll become better at making decisions and make better decisions in the long run.

So, how does one acquire just the right amount of technical knowledge?

  1. Context is Queen. Invite yourself to meetings until you begin to connect the dots. Go to sprint reviews, product demos, stand-ups, whatever it takes. Start with them all if you have to, so that you can learn which ones are most valuable. Then you’ll begin to see which ones are really valuable for you to understand the context that you need. 

    By doing this, you’ll also show the technical people in the room that you care deeply and along the way, you’ll find opportunities to educate them on why it matters that you know this information (so that you can perform better in your to your non-technical role).  

  2. Get comfortable with the subject and you’ll have greater empathy. Take a programming class from Ladies Learning Code, Lynda.com, Red Academy, Udemy or any of the other in-person or online options that are available. You may not want to become the next hacker/developer but the perspective on the challenges and rewards that come with development may give you a sense of empathy that comes with becoming more comfortable with the subject. 

    The hard work of our development teams can sometimes go unrecognized. This also gives you an opportunity to learn what you need to and also appreciate the talent that goes into the development process. Because, let’s face it - as a non-technical person, this stuff is as close to magic as it gets.

  3. Facts over feelings. Know your numbers and become dashboard obsessed. You’ll be equipped to make decisions based on real metrics and be data driven rather than going on a ‘gut feeling’ or putting all the decision making onus on others.

  4. Own your role. Own your knowledge gaps so you can ask lots of questions as the non-technical person in the room without feeling like you “should” know the answers.

  5. Find an ally. A project manager, a scrum master, a more junior developer. Someone that you don’t get intimidated by. This person could be a great ally in translating technical speak and when they’re in the room, you can feel less nervous to say “I don’t understand”.    

It may be intimidating to be that person who knows the least about tech than others around you, especially if you’re new to the industry, just kicking off your career or feel like you don’t have time in your day to take on any more. Try one or more of these tips and you’ll surely be better off (you can’t be worse off!). Try it and let me know in the comments below if it helped or what’s worked for you.

Who am I?

I’m Himali, a Product Marketer with experience from leading SaaS organizations from across Canada. I’ve spoken about Product at international conferences, built an influencer channel and launched dozens of products and features for everyone from marketers to accountants. I started out in transportation logistics, then got into aviation and finally ended up in tech... So I know a thing or two about the ‘learning curve’ and how to overcome it. If you want to know more, reach out to me on LinkedIn and reference this article in the message.

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