Ask Me Anything Career

AMA: describing our work

Chris Stanbridge asks…

Hi Alister, Long time fan of this site and your work – you’ve become the quality go-to source of truth for our scrum team. I think I have a similar role as your day job, but I have a quandary: I’m unable to describe what I do at work. Friends and family lose attention part way through my explanation, and I’ve found it has made me appear to be a crashing bore. I’ve developed a recurring nightmare where I fail to summarise the nature of my work to my demons (game-show hosts or stand-up comedians who pick me out of a crowd) who just don’t get it. I thought I was being clever by saying I use a “robot” to check if computer code works, but the picture painted using that word is considerably off the mark. If only I was a plumber… I’m sure you can provide me with a concise blurb I can memorise and plagiarise for the next neighborhood barbeque that’ll make me appear as interesting as I think I am 🙂 Cheers, Chris PS: Please keep up the excellent and entertaining blog – you’re an inspiration and an education.

My response…

Well, my job title at Automattic is actually Excellence Wrangler which is both awesome (in that no-one has heard of it before), and terrible (in that I have to explain what it is to everyone who asks).

I will often say something quick like “I work with various software teams to create a consistently pleasant user experience on”.

If that’s not sufficient detail I can explain that we continually do lots of testing of various user flows across different devices and browsers trying to find issues and bugs before our users do. We also develop automated scripts that run all the time to help us find these issues quickly since we make changes so frequently.

I’m not sure if that will help you, but since you’re in Brisbane too, let’s catch up and discuss further over lunch and/or tea 😀


One reply on “AMA: describing our work”

I find it useful to put myself in the listener’s shoes and think what value my role has to them, and then explain that—usually by explaining what would happen if the work wasn’t being done. Something like “you know when you’re using a website/app and it just doesn’t work? and you think, didn’t they test this? why isn’t it working? Well where I work, we do care about that and we do test. And that’s what I do. I test the app so it won’t be broken when you use it.” You can lead into the “sometimes we miss things…” if that suits the conversation you want to have ~:) Job titles in IT are pretty bad, it’s usually better to explain what you do in plain English anyway 🙂

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