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Joining the world of technical jargon and abbreviations

By Louise Stevenson, Operations Manager & EA to CEO, Criton

If you’re anything like me, you will love embracing new technology; though we often give little thought as to how that technology is developed and the stages it goes through to reach us.

Peek behind the curtain and you will find a world of jargon and more abbreviations than you can shake a smartphone at.

So, what happens when you go from living in technological ignorance to it suddenly becoming the centre of your professional life?

The current pandemic has unfortunately meant many Assistants are back on the job market, and while some sectors are struggling, technology is on the up and there are great opportunities. But moving into tech for the first time can be a daunting prospect.

Two years ago, I joined a tech start-up. The job couldn’t have been more suited – flexible hours, working from home when desired (those were the days!), a fantastic CEO and the chance to carve out my own role. There was just one issue – when it came to the work they were doing on the product, I had absolutely no idea what anyone was talking about.

Assistants are used to starting new roles in sectors they know little about, it’s one of the great things about the job that we get to dip our toes into all kinds of professions. But technology can feel particularly alien.

The culture and terminology can be very different from a corporate environment (on my first day at Criton I discovered they all wore jeans and t-shirts, I felt like Old Corporate Annie with my business wear); in my eyes they were young, cool, and very clever. If I put my hand up to say I didn’t understand they might discover I was totally uncool (spoiler alert: they found that out anyway!).

At some point though they had all been the new person that had brought their own set of skills to the table and had developed their understanding of the business through time, experience, and the big Golden Nugget – asking questions. That might seem like such a simple thing to do, but it doesn’t always come easily. Our old friend Imposter Syndrome can kick in and suddenly we feel like we don’t belong, a little voice tells us not to ask, that you’re the only one that doesn’t know, you will look silly and that they probably covered it at the last meeting when you started getting hungry and were thinking about sandwiches.

But that little voice is always talking rubbish and people are actually very nice. Asking, ‘so what does JSON stand for?’ will not result in you being publicly shamed in the centre of the trendy start-up hub and made to wear a dunce cap. The truth is (most of the time) people aren’t trying to alienate you with jargon, they usually just don’t realise that you don’t know and will appreciate you trying to learn.

Involving yourself in the processes always helps to increase your understanding – attending meetings on product development, sitting in on new feature demos, helping the sales team with their collateral – a lot can be learned from how the company sells itself to its customers who themselves will usually have limited knowledge of the technology.

Of course, it’s important to have a good understanding of what your company does and what they are trying to achieve, but it’s also equally important not to have unrealistic expectations. At no point did anyone ever expect me to learn code or design an app, it was only me that worried that I didn’t know enough. I had to remind myself that I was hired for the skills I already possessed.

So, if you find yourself lucky enough to end up in tech, grab yourself a flat white and a ping pong ball, be yourself, and enjoy learning something new. After all, adapting is what us Assistants do best!

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