March 16–17, 2015: Training
March 17–19, 2015: Conference
Boston, MA

How To Talk To Non-Engineers

David  Sklar  (David Sklar, Inc.)
1:15pm–2:45pm Thursday, 03/19/2015
Business Skills, Scale
Location: 306
Average rating: ***..
(3.56, 9 ratings)
Slides:   1-PDF 

Prerequisite Knowledge

Desire and/or need to use people in addition to code to accomplish one's goals. Willingness to hear and understand non-technical needs and priorities.


Perhaps, as a software engineer or budding architect, you’ve had to be in a meeting with one of these people:

  • A business person who wants all three of “fast”, “cheap”, and “good”
    without understanding the nature of any necessary tradeoffs.
  • A product manager who provides a laundry list of features that all
    seem equally critical.
  • A designer who aims for pixel-perfect replication of a beautiful but
    impossible mock-up.

It’s frustrating. And those folks are probably frustated if they hear
you explain away their priorities with a jargon-filled discourse on
Brewer’s CAP theorem, shared library version mismatches, and
Firesheep snooping.

Yet becoming a software architect means you have to help everybody cooperate.

When you’re just starting your career, the code you write is often the
sole focus of your job so you can avoid a lot of this and let more
senior project leads shoulder this burden. But as you develop your
abilities and want to become one of those project leads (or beyond?)
You need to play nice with others.

This talk helps you become a more effective architect by giving you
tools and techniques for having successful, productive conversations
with all those non-coders in your meetings. We’ll talk about good
questions to ask, good ways to answer questions, and other
communication skills that will turn you from a rage-filled nerd
wanting vengeance on anyone with pointy hair to a light among the
nations who can lead your team to happy success.

Photo of David  Sklar 

David  Sklar 

David Sklar, Inc.

David is an independent consultant who solves your API design, distributed systems, and engineering culture problems. He’s the author of Learning PHP 5, Essential PHP Tools, and co-author of PHP Cookbook. His scintillating blog is at David lives in New York City and has a degree in Computer Science from Yale University.