Talk the Talk: How to Communicate with the Non-Coder

06/02/2015 - 14:00 to 14:20
Stage 3
short talk (20 min)

Session abstract: 

Your first thought may be: Why would I want to talk to non-coders? Buzzwords is a developers’ conference, and most users of open source software also are developers. But there’s a huge advantage to be gained by being able to describe what you do – the capabilities and the reasonable limitations – in powerful, non-technical ways that let you communicate effectively with project managers, those with useful domain knowledge, and in the case of some open source projects, the users. Take the new Apache Drill offering, for example. The community of Drill users comprise widely different groups. It includes developers who will appreciate the flexibility and extensibility of Drill as they incorporate it into their own projects plus business analysts with less deep technical developer knowledge but with strong experience and serious goals analyzing big data with BI tools. It helps for those developing Drill to be able to clearly see their needs and talk about how Drill may address them. 


Describing technical work in non-technical terms does not mean “dumbing it down”. Much to the contrary, it means having sufficiently clear conceptual understanding of your own work that you can cut to the heart of the essential aspects and communicate them to people with a wide range of different background expertise.  This approach is particularly useful with machine learning projects in which clear communication with business clients and domain experts about the applicability of available data sources can make or break a project.


There’s another advantage to developing the skill of conceptual communication: it improves your own thinking in terms of seeing the critically important aspects of your work and in leaving you open to innovation.  This talk will examine concrete steps to take to learn how to best communicate the strength of your work to other groups and best conceptualize your own roadmap.