Speak My Language

by Laura Baker, Co-Founder of CyberWyoming

Yesterday evening I volunteered as a Speed Mentor for UW engineering, business, and biology students. I was really impressed with everyone I talked to and have high hopes for this generation. When asked for advice, I repeated over and over again “Put yourself in your audience’s shoes.”

No matter what field you are in there is a ‘jargon’ unique to that industry. When trying to collaborate across interdisciplinary teams or communicate with your customers, that jargon does more damage than good – especially in the technical industries.

It is the Curse of Knowledge. You forget that you are trying to communicate with an outsider or a beginner. And, as I told the UW students, “You don’t look smarter. You look less empathetic. Slow down, explain technical terms, and find stories or analogies that can relate to your audience.”

The Curse of Knowledge actually decreases trust because communications fail. I think that this is seriously hurting the cybersecurity and technology industries.

And then today, while reading the Cybersecurity Collaborative’s Morning Security Report, with this issue on my mind, an article about Office Depot was summarized from ZDNet.com. Office Depot had to pay $25 million in a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission because the company was accused of tricking customers into buying unneeded tech support services. They created a PC Health Check fake scanner with 4 questions and if any of those questions where checked then the questionnaire would automatically trigger a positive malware scan result.

My first thought in reading this is that the cybersecurity and technology industry need transparency desperately. How do you get this transparency? Better communications and empathy for your customers.

Technology professionals need to learn to address the Curse of Knowledge and speak the language of their customers.


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