Today I came across a great series of screencasts by Brian H. Prince called “Driving Your Career”. I went through the 20 or so short episodes and was very impressed with the things he had to say. It seems mainly geared towards developer types, but I think anyone in technology would benefit from listening.
One of the recurring themes in these segments is that technology folks are different than “humans”. For example in Episode 14 “How to Communicate with Humans”, he shows a picture of some aliens from Star Trek: The Next Generation (they were Binars, actually) and says “This is what you look like to humans”. That and what he says subsequent to that really makes sense to me. We in the industry are very often so far out of touch with what the average user’s experience is, that we might as well be aliens.
I always use the analogy of an auto mechanic. I don’t understand really anything about the inner workings of a car, and yet I have to depend on it to get me where I need to go. If something goes wrong with it, I have to rely on someone who knows a whole world of jargon and parts and systems that I have no clue about. The people who use our technology are dependent on us to an even higher degree. Technology is far more than transportation, for many users it enables them to earn their livelihood.
The point is, make sure that you are managing your career with the end user in mind.