Several decades ago I started working in tech, expecting to be among calm people who would gather data, carefully assess it and make reasoned decisions which would be correct most of the time.
Yes. It wasn’t like that; but with improvements in testing and in the ease of gathering information it can be more like that sometimes. So uncertainty is vanishing? Now we get all the facts in order and make a systematic, reasoned choice? All the time?
No. Technology has exploded. Your knowledge increases, but it’s a smaller proportion of the total. You have far more decisions than you can ever research properly. Of course, you’ll work hard on the really important ones, but there’ll be plenty of others that are less important, but can still bite you if you get them wrong. What to do?
First: collect information as you find it. Don’t wait until you need it. When decision time arrives, a great article you looked at a few months ago is no help if you can’t find it (how to store and retrieve information effectively is a topic for another time).
Second: If it’s not a key decision, pass it to somebody else if you can. You’re thinking about a product. Someone tells you it’s nothing but trouble, and it’s being eclipsed by some other technology. It may be hard to find people who can work with it. If that’s an informed opinion, save yourself time and look at something else. Perhaps you must have that product, in which case you’ll know that you have to work around certain problems.
You don’t have technical experts on hand just when you need them? Collect trade gossip; if you’re up to date on what’s being said about companies and products you may be able to make a good decision on instinct. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than “paralysis by analysis”.
Good Quality Gossip
A good discussion-format podcast doesn’t just cover the main topic; there’s a lot of value in the passing remarks about products and companies. They’ve helped me make decisions that I’ve been very happy with. Two podcasts you might consider are:
- RunAs Radio: Richard Campbell has loads of technical experience, a practical approach, and is also a businessman
- Hanselminutes: Scott Hanselman covers everything from social enterprise to tech topics.
It’s worth listening even when the subject isn’t of immediate interest. Don’t be intimidated by the technical jargon. Part of the benefit of these shows is that some of it will eventually make sense, and you’ll have “tech cred” when your people realise you understand it.
Another source of useful trade chat is networking. Many networking forums put you in touch with “people like you”. Business is tough sometimes, and that kind of networking is fine for emotional support, but more concrete benefits may be limited.
Networking at a professional association is different. It’s one place where you can talk freely with people you probably couldn’t reach during working hours. If you’re a startup you might try the BCS Entrepreneurs Specialist Group. Their events calendar is here.