How to Contribute to a Technology Project as a Non-technical Person

If it hasn’t already happened to you, trust me: it will. You’ll be pushing paper and thumbing through your binders of women when all of a sudden, your boss will come over and say the words no seasoned office employee ever wants to hear: “We’re putting you on the dev project, Adelgunde.” (What a lovely name you have, Adel. Same as my lovely German grandma! Anyhoo…) As a non-technical person, what do you do? Besides have a panic attack?

Here’s the thing. You’re going to hear some things you don’t understand. This is to be expected. But the moment you show weakness is the moment those snarky nerds will torment you with technology. This is not inevitable: follow these tips and you’ll be HTML5-ing with the best of them in no time!

Suggest frequently that the team “put it in the cloud.”


The cloud is a magical place with unlimited storage space that saves money. That’s all you need to know about that. No one knows where it is, and no one ever asks, so just talk about it as if you were talking about Canada or some other random place.

Loudly insist on agile teams

Since agile methodology doesn’t allow for useless people on teams, you probably won’t have to actually participate. Just assume that agile means doing things quickly and recklessly, and remind everyone to be agile every time the team falls behind or disagrees with you.

Ask, “Could we be using microservices for this?”

This is risky, because the team might ask some hard follow up questions, like “what are you talking about?” or “how did you get into the building?” Simply respond with “kafka.” If they call security, try to grab some pizza as they remove you.

Whenever someone asks you a hard question, refocus the conversation to the data

Remind the team often that data is our most important asset, and suggest hadoop for processing large data sets if you’re feeling brave. Hadoop is a silly word that’s fun to say, so everyone will like that you said it, even if what you’re doing has nothing to do with large data sets. Hadoop! Teehee!

Bring up AI or machine learning, but not in a specific way that shows you don’t know the difference between the two

I can’t help you since I’m in the same boat.

Just suggest a bot

The conversation will get completely sidetracked, and soon you’ll be passionately debating whether the bot will be named Wilfred or Ava. Congratulations: you’ve earned their trust.

If they mention refactoring the code, run

Yeah, you’re screwed. Maybe you shouldn’t have asked them to incorporate kafka, hadoop, and AI into the project halfway through. Just go to your manager and tell her that the project failed. Inform her that failing fast is actually a central tenet of agile methodology, and that you deserve an award. Convince her to send you to a month-long agile training program so you can fail even faster next time.

It’s a scary place out there in the cloud with all those bots walking around, but with these helpful tips, no one will doubt your (artificial) intelligence. Hadoop!!

About the author

Kristen Pyszczyk

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