Tech Talk to sound like a Tech Vet
Every industry has its set of jargon and commonly used terms. It’s the grease that speeds up communication and keeps everyone on the same page.
The tech industry is no different with its shared language that everyone in a tech firm ought to know, from product managers to software engineers, data analysts to sales reps. Here are some phrases that will not only let you talk the talk among techies, but also are very much applicable even outside the tech world. And if you are looking to make a foray into the tech industry, knowing these terms will save you from sounding like a n00b on day one
Learn some tech terms and appear woke in your stand up meetings! PHOTO: UNSPLASH.COM
Agile vs waterfall!
You may have heard the term “agile” thrown around a bit in project management but what does it actually mean? Well, the best way to understand agile is to understand its opposite – waterfall.
The waterfall method is linear (everything follows a straight line) and sequential (one step must happen before the next step can take place). A project using this process flows in one direction only – hence the name “waterfall”.
Waterfall works well for straightforward stuff with well established protocols to follow. Since each step is crucial for the next to happen, a lot of time is spent planning the project so that everything runs like clockwork. And once this masterplan is locked in place, it brooks no changes.
Think of it as building an eight-lane super highway to connect two land masses. You spend a lot of time putting together the schematics and construction timeline. Once the foundations are sunk and concrete is poured, it’s really hard to say you want to add one more looping exit halfway through the process. Such a fixed structure has its advantages when you want certainty. When you’re really sure that a super highway is the answer to your problems and you’ve got an experienced construction team, it absolutely makes sense to follow the waterfall approach.
Agile, on the other hand, as its name suggests, accommodates changes well. It sees a project as a series of incremental steps, with each iteration fully functional. This process is open to changing requirements as users test out new iterations and give feedback on what works and what doesn’t. As a problem solving mechanism, the philosophy is: “Let’s not sit around cooking up a perfect plan. Instead, let’s come up with a quick fix and see how that works out while tweaking it as we go along.”
Going back to our analogy of connecting two land masses. Instead of planning the mega highway, agile would build a functional, two-lane bridge first so people can start travelling back and forth sooner. Then, after studying the traffic volume, you might realise you don’t need so many lanes after all. Instead there is demand for bicycle lanes and pedestrian tracks because some prefer to commute healthily. So you add those, even while motor vehicles are already happily flowing back and forth
No, its not that rugby scrum that you are thinking off. Decidedly less physical, scrum, when it comes to tech, is a framework to implement an agile style of working. So a description of scrum sounds similar to agile, but just remember: Agile is more of a philosophy, while scrum is the skeleton that gives it structure.
So when creating a product in a scrum structure, each iteration of the product is known as a sprint, which usually lasts one or two weeks. The short time period allows nimbleness. Need some changes or bugs to be ironed out? No problem, we’ll just work that into the next sprint, which is at most two weeks away.
But this flexibility can also become a liability if it leads to mission creep. Because it’s so easy to add functions to a product, pretty soon everyone has an opinion on what should be added and it gets bloated into an unwieldy frankenstein.
To prevent this, the team must maintain a clear vision of what is being built and steer together towards that objective, taking on board useful changes that add to that goal and jettisoning others that are distractions.
One key aspect of sprints is ensuring everyone is on the same page. To do so, daily meetings called stand-ups are held at the start of the day. These are simple and short – you’re supposed to be doing them standing up – face-times where team members take turns saying what they did yesterday, what they’ll be doing today, and any roadblocks they encountered.
Everyone knows not just what they’re doing, but what others are doing too so as to prevent miscommunication and other screw ups (wait, so who did the final quality check? It wasn’t me, I thought it was supposed to be you!). Stand-up rituals can also be tweaked according to the fancy of the team. For instance, many teams take the opportunity to dole out kudos to team members for the help they rendered or a job well done. It’s common to hear applause after each shout-out, a thoughtful recognition of the small, everyday contributions of your co-workers.
Retro – short for retrospective – in this case is a meeting at the end of sprint to take stock of what transpired over the course of the latest iteration.
The team usually talks about what went well, what can be improved, and raises any doubts they have. This is useful as good practices can be kept, while proposed improvements can be immediately adopted at the next sprint.
Ever been stuck while shopping, unsure whether outfit A or B suits you better? If only there were a way to wear each outfit on different days of the week and count the compliments you receive before finally choosing either one.
With online products, this A-or-B test (hence A/B testing) takes place all the time, and we the users are taking part in the experiments. If it’s something that we’re clicking with our mice or tapping on our phones, you can bet there’s a different version of it out there.
A/B tests are run everywhere, from headlines on news sites to ads on social media. Nothing is too trivial to test, even the font, colour, and shape of the “submit” button that’s common on a lot of sites. Needless to say, whichever version gets the most clicks wins the day. Collecting user behaviour data is valuable to companies as they can customise their products to suit user preference and marker to customers more effectively.
The internet economy is all about precise targeting of potential users – lead generation is how it’s done. A lead is someone who’s shown interest in your product or service. The basic idea is to generate lots of leads and direct them down a path towards becoming a customer.
Generating leads and nurturing them into customers differ from business to business. An e-commerce retailer sees that you’ve been browsing laptops and therefore recommends a variety of monitors and keyboards to go with your work-from-home setup. A personal finance site notices that you’ve been reading up on credit card perks and then emails you a list of the best cashback credit cards.
Along the way, some leads inevitably fizzle out, so businesses try to generate as many leads as possible. Kind of like how you cast your net wide when starting out in the dating game, getting to many people. As you get to know one another, mutual interest will wax and wane until you find a suitable match.
Use it or lose it!
Just like when learning a new language, these terms are going to be really hard to remember unless you put them into use.
Suss out if your workplace is ready for some fresh practices and find ways to incorporate them into your office routine. If you’re involved in a project, have a discussion about whether agile is the way to go. Get the team together for a quick morning coffee chat as a stand-up. And adopt the habit of periodic performance reviews by holding retros.
Just get out there and speak the lingo loudly and proudly, and pretty soon you’ll be sounding like a techie.https://www.tech.gov.sg/media/technews/tech-talk-to-sound-like-a-tech-veteran