11 Tricks to Get Engineers to Sort of Respect You

As we all know, software engineers are the smartest, sweetest, most pretentious bastards in corporate America. I should know – I’m married to one of them.

But there’s no need to sacrifice your lifelong happiness like I did. Here are eleven quick ways to get a software engineer to say those six little words: “Yeah, I sort of respect you.”

1. Send text-only emails

Engineers aren’t impressed with your fancy headers, bold red text formatting or inline images. What they are impressed with is… multi-level ascii lists.

If you want emphasis, put it in between *two asterisks.* If you want over-emphasis, put it between _two underscores_. And never ever end any email with “cheers.”

2. Talk about things being “orthogonal”

Whenever a new point is introduced, say something like, “Isn’t that orthogonal to this conversation?” Even if it isn’t, you still get points for saying “orthogonal.”

3. Mention the first article of Hacker News

Go to Hacker News and read the first headline. Memorize it. Then, next time you’re chatting with an engineer, mention it. Work it into the conversation, no matter what it is.

4. Make fun of product managers

There’s no faster way to get on the good side of most engineers than making fun of product managers. Huge bonus points if you yourself are a product manager  –  but in that case, your ego may be too inflated to make fun of yourself effectively, so here are some jokes you can use.

Joke #1
What does a Jeopardy loser and product manager have in common?
They both ask a lot of stupid questions.

Joke #2
What’s the best way to pay a product manager?
American Express. They love taking credit for things.

Joke #3
What happened to the product manager who could only write three lines of code?
He got promoted.

Get a few engineers within earshot and tell one of these jokes, and you’ll have their sort of respect in no time. More product management jokes here.

5. Make your desktop background a picture of Linus

Linus who? Torvalds. No you don’t need to know who that is.

6. Leave an emacs buffer open

Leave an emacs buffer open on your desktop. I don’t know what it is either. Fill it with a bunch of words like “git” and “reddit” and “cloud” and “fetch.” If you really want to get him excited, use org-mode.

Pro tip: Engineers think of org-mode as the Pearl Jam of organizational major modes.

7. Compliment his design skills

Complimenting an engineer’s design skills is a lot like faking an orgasm –  it’s empty flattery but it’ll pay dividends in the long run, maybe even get you a free dinner at Sizzler (i.e., the top of the list the next time something is broken).

Don’t underestimate the power of a non-specific comment about his use of white space or the font on her buttons.

8. Become a grammar nazi

Engineers aren’t professional grammarticians, but they love correcting people. Even more, they love making you feel stupid. So get on their good side by pointing out the difference between e.g., and i.e., where the period goes in et.al, and the correct usage of the phrase, “begging the question.” For bonus points, discuss Latin roots.

9. Compliment her rig

Say how great her rig is. Keep it ambiguous.

10. Say “you don’t look like an engineer” (Male) or “you look like an engineer (Female)

One of the best things you can do to get on an male engineer’s good side is make him feel as much like a regular person as possible, without insulting his intelligence. Say things like, “You’re too cool to be an engineer,” or “Nice kicks!” or “You are the least awkward person I know.”

For female engineers, say “You look like an engineer,” because female engineers want people to think they’re just as awkward as their male counterparts.

11. Food and alcohol

When all else fails, order some pizza and buy some beer. The good kind. Engineers love pretending to be beer snobs. Filling their stomachs and getting them drunk will definitely get you the sort of respect of every engineer you work with.

About the author

Sarah Cooper

Sarah Cooper is an author and speaker. Her first book, 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings, landed at #1 on Amazon in the Books > Humor > Business humor > Paperback books > Books with pages > Handheld books category.

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