Let's Get Technical


I do not know how to code. The languages I know are Spanish, French (both clumsily), and English (less clumsily), not JavaScript or Python. Can I set up a server or trouble shoot network issues? Only if you want more issues. Do I consider myself a technical person? That’s a complicated question.

At what point does one consider oneself “technical?” And what does that even mean? I recently attended the UCTech Conference in Santa Barbara and attended a Women in Tech panel in which the Associate CIO at UC Davis, Meggan Levitt said something that resonated with me:

“The word ‘technical’ was used against me in my early career to single me out as an employee without a STEM degree and somehow less deserving of the term. I decided right then to build a computer from scratch (without YouTube!) to prove to myself that a Spanish major can be technical too! Now, as a manager and leader in my organization, I know there are many paths to becoming technical—libraries, teaching and finance for example. I welcome employees that can learn new technologies to solve problems; now employees that can partner with vendors, define requirements, and change business processes are the ‘technical’ ones.”

My entire career I’ve spent following my curiosity about technology, trying to understand what it can do to improve business processes. To me, “technical” always felt like something I would never be because I wasn’t tinkering with the metaphorical and literal nuts and bolts of a system. But with that reframing of what technical can mean, I instantly became a technical person. I saw the skills I’ve developed, which are centered around technology, but more focused on the customer experience, requirements solicitation and communication, and evaluating the technology and business processes, in a new light.

My role oftentimes has required me to work with engineers of different types—software, network, etc. I would find myself prefacing our conversations by saying “I’m not the technical person” as a way to pardon my not using their jargon or asking lots of questions. But this did a disservice to the expertise and skills that I bring to the table. I am the bridge between engineer and end user. I am the glue that holds the project team together. I am the constant force questioning the status quo. I am an important piece of the “technical” puzzle.

I will no longer sell myself short by saying “I’m not the technical person,” and will replace it with something more specific like “I don’t have that level of expertise in network engineering to answer that question.” So, if you ask me if I’m a technical person, I’d answer that it’s still a complicated question, but I’m much closer to “yes.”