This was my final week as intern at UpReach and I had a blast! Working on the front-end, back-end and even a hardware component of the UpReach photo booth taught me a lot. The most exciting thing however, was that I got to live in Berlin for five months. However working in another country can have its downsides, like language barriers. English was the go to language even though not a single person, including me, was a native speaker. This was specifically because I could read a bit of German but not speak it. On top of that I often had to talk to project management and sales who did not always know the details of the technology behind the product. There are four tricks that improved my communication towards my co-workers and I would really like to share them with you.
The photo booth business is fast. From time to time I had to join briefings that discussed special configurations and development for specific clients. A lot of information would be thrown at me in a very short period of time. By writing down important details and keywords during the briefing I was able to keep track of the conversation. This trick sounds like the obvious thing to do, but it will surprise you how easy it is to forget to take notes. Taking notes does not just help you in the moment but also in the long run. Small details that make a big difference will slip your mind at some point, reading notes from the past can really help.
If you have experienced certain patterns over and over it is very easy to jump to conclusions. Before you do so make sure you receive all of the information that has to be communicated. Something that seems like a minor detail to the project manager can make a big difference to what you have to build. Someone might also come with a proposed solution that doesn't seem to fit the situation. Before you decide to implement something 'better' instead ask why the person proposed it. Nodding your head and doing what you think is right or faster can backfire and cost you a lot more time. Always make sure you understand the full context. Communicate concerns and alternatives when you have an understanding the bigger picture.
Tailor your explanation to the audience whenever you have to explain the technical side of things. As developer, it is easy forget how many acronyms and abstractions you encounter on a daily basis. If you are talking to someone who is not a developer you will most likely have to tone down the jargon. Make sure the amount of jargon and technical detail suits the person you are talking to. It often takes time to figure out how comfortable someone is with details. Some project managers at UpReach preferred to stay as far away from the jargon as possible. Others knew a lot about tech and could understand me with ease. It will be a lot easier to talk to different departments if you are able to explain yourself with different levels of complexity.
Assuming that everyone is on the same page right before a briefing ends is a huge mistake. It is very easy to forget or misinterpret something. Before you collectively end the brief, summarize the important conclusions out loud and ask anything is missing. After everyone agrees, state what each person is going to do from this point on. This saves a lot of time and miscommunication in the long run.
Clear communication is a really important part of a job in any field. Hopefully, these four tricks will clear up some communication with co-workers. I still have to get 'good' at all of these but just trying can already make a big difference.