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Could a more diverse workforce help us communicate better?

Communication is not always something that the IT industry excels at but Nick Booth gains some tips from Lisa Calkins, CSO at Exadel

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: MicroScope: MicroScope: March 2017

For people whose business is information, the IT industry isn’t great at telling us what we need to know, and brilliant at boring us with stuff we don’t.

Why is the IT industry so bad at communicating? Why do they always assume we know what these silly acronyms mean?

We asked Lisa Calkins, CSO at Exadel.

Calkins job title is a case in point. Firstly, we had to ask her what that unexplained acronym in actually means. As usual, we are forced to on the internet for possible explanations. Chief security officer? Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra? Combined Sewer Overflow?

“CSO stands for Chief Strategy Officer,” says Calkins, “ although I often feel like a conductor in an orchestra, with all of these highly skilled artists playing together. Each division or team thinks its section is the most important. But if the strings don't work with the percussion all of us can hear the discord.”

Why is the IT industry so bad at communicating?

“I don't think it is that they are bad, it is that they are expected to communicate with people in the organisation that don't speak their language,” says Calkins.

Sounds like a text book case of comms breakdown to me.

“Techies often talk to techies just fine. OK, not talk but message via Slack. It is when they have to talk to people who don't speak tech, [i.e.] everyone else, [that there are challenges]. Techies are really literal, most things are black and white to them. Most other people communicate with a lot of grey and say one thing but really mean another and this is lost in translation to a techie,” says Calkins. It is not a case that one is bad and the other is good, but that communicating needs a lot more patience and empathy. Which no one seems to have any more, Calkins argues.

How do you change that culture?

“Today, what you know is often out of date faster than ever before, so I think there is a lot of fear that keeps people from sharing information,” says Calkins. Nobody really knows what’s the right information to share and in how much detail, she says. Combine that with a global IT workforce and you have a huge impact in communication and fear. “Regardless of the reason we have a perfect storm of communication getting worse not better,” says Calkins.

Well that’s a massive problem. Surely there’s a gap in the market there.

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