How to work with a technical team (when you’re not technical)

To work well with a technical team (broadly aka: engineers, techs, techies, IT, dev) is something I’ve been determined to do better as a marketer. Why? Two major reasons: it helps me better be able to execute marketing programs and be a better business professional.

When I’m working with a company that has a technical product or service for sale you bet I need to be able to work well with the tech team. They’re the ones responsible for creating it. They know best what it can do, can’t do and how it’ll do it. This is who I get my understanding of the product/service from in order to create product positioning, messaging, white papers, website copy, sales presentations etc.

One more time?
I’ve always found it a little hard to get the information I need from some technical teams. I always thought it was a combination of the fact that I’m not terribly technical and as a result, I probably wasn’t asking the right questions. Plus, honestly, I need to draw out the diagrams (kinetic learner) and have the concept repeated a few times. Clearly, talking with me on these things was a bit of a commitment. 🙂

So imagine my delight when at Product Camp Toronto 2013, I saw an open session led by Vahid Jozi titled How to Manage A Technical  Team.

The session was clearly for the product management role, but I figured I could get something out of it, and I did. A few things Vahid mentioned were helpful to me in understanding technical teams but the one that stood out most for me was the motivation he described.

What techs want
According to Vahid, to work well, a technical team is motivated by and needs:

  • a supportive work environment
  • great work (challenging projects)
  • the comfort of each individual liking the other people on his/her team.

While broadly, this sounds what most of us, regardless of being on a tech team or not, would like, what I noticed was missing was money and customer satisfaction (due to generally marketers being driven buy customer satisfaction–sales–resulting in money). And although this didn’t totally get me the clear answer I was looking for – it helped with a piece of the puzzle. A group with a different motivation set than I have. Now, how to do a better job with asking the questions I need answers to. Any advice?

I wished the session was longer so we could have dived into this topic further. What’s been your experience as a non-technical person working well with a technical team?

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