Trying to understand what techies do

All you non-techies, ever wondered what is it that techies actually do? What is a technical architect? How about a PHP developer? A business analyst? A big data consultant, information manager, desktop support engineer, data mining engineer, delivery manager...? And no, ‘they work with computers’ doesn’t count.

Then again, you are not alone if you don’t know. A recent online survey found that jobs in IT are among the most challenging to explain. No wonder many techies say that they have, at one time or the other, faced the difficulty of explaining their jobs, the jargon and the reason for all those late hours to the not-so-tech-savvy. All that without sounding condescending and without it being understood as ‘I am a computer whiz; I can fix your computer woes!’

Take, for instance, Rakesh Raghunathan, a ‘project leader’ at a multi-national company, who leads a team developing applications for the airline industry, specifically crew management systems. “My mother, Meenambika, is a retired high school assistant and is not very aware of the workings of the IT industry. So when explaining to her about my job, I tried to relate it to something that she can understand – a timetable! I told her that just like students, every employee in an airline needs to adhere to a timetable. Just like a teacher would prepare a timetable for a class, a manager has to prepare one for the airline crew. My job is to help the managers create timetables efficiently.”

Techie Krishnageeth B., a ‘systems consultant’ (Unix), also had a tough time explaining his job to his parents, both of who are teachers. “I usually start with the very basics – explaining the difference between Windows, which is a paid software, and Unix, an open source operating system that has more stability and which is used by most companies to run databases. All the computers in the office, both production and development, run on Unix . What I do is troubleshoot issues that pop up on servers and databases to ensure that they all run smoothly.”

The term ‘techie’ means an expert (or an enthusiast) in technology, especially computing. “It’s really a pretty broad term, especially since it’s possible to bring technology into any field,” says Phillip, a marketing engineer. And that means? “It’s my job to convince customers that our solutions is just what they need or to make sure that my company builds and evolves solutions that work for customers.”

The variety of jobs in Technopark itself is mindboggling, considering that there are two main types of companies there – IT firms and business process outsourcing (BPO) firms, each with its own hierarchy structure and working systems. Rajesh Rajamohanan Nair, a business analyst with an MNC, explains: “Within an IT firm there would generally be IT project delivery people who do the actual coding/programming, IT management roles and also IT support functions such as human resources, administration, recruitment, finance, marketing, and so on. For example, IT delivery would have testers, developers, business analysts, technical leads, systems analysts, and software architects, all of who report to the project manager. IT management would have president or chief operating officer (COO), who would report to the CEO. There would be vice president reporting to the COO and an account director, who reports to the vice president. One step down would be an account manager and then the project manager.”

Rajesh explains his own role in the company thus: “Converting business requirements into documentation and prototypes that can be easily understood by the development team.” What he means is that he is the go-between for clients and the development team.

Techie Jeeth Yesudas is a ‘software developer’, involved in maintaining healthcare insurance services. His client is a United States-based insurance company. Got it? No? He explains: “Policies like Obamacare [the controversial health care plan for the U.S. being pushed by President Barack Obama] have an impact on insurance companies, who would have to come up with new plans. Whatever technical activity there is for these plans, my team and I work on them. Apart from technical know-how for this sort of job you need good communication and logical skills too.” Capisce?