How can we communicate with engineers as a non-technical business owner? with Aman Y. Agarwal




hi welcome everybody welcome back to foreign connect podcast today we have a special guest aman uh welcome to our show aman today so amen can you please describe me what you do with everything going on with you right now


yeah sure so i run an executive education company okay i basically help non-technical founders executives and entrepreneurs yeah how to be more technically fluent and when i say technically fluent technical fluency means being able to understand technology and have intelligent in intelligent talks with engineers and also make make high-level technical decisions


so that being said i know that you have some like engineering background and everything like that can you um give us a snapshot of like where what's your background is sounds good so i uh i'm an engineer by training um i was uh formerly a uh an engineer in silicon valley building self-driving trucks and uh you know artificial intelligence and that kind of stuff yeah and besides that i was also a business executives i was doing enterprise sales both before that and after that so i have had a weird i've had a strange career path where i started doing business then i moved to high technology and then i moved back to business i see but that gives you edge right like you understand the language as business people but you also understand the language of technical people and that puts you in a perfect position for you to teach this topic right absolutely i hope so i see so that that's very interesting so today i wanted to discover three very specific questions to you right the first one is how to thrive in an ai and tech driven landscape as a non-technical person and the reason i wanted to bring you in to this show is um some of our customers have um are running like i.t solution company and you know some are like managers and entrepreneurs who need to definitely learn this very specific topic right they have to hire engineers and they have to know uh what's going on right so i wanted to bring you in and specifically talk about this topic so once again my question is the first one is how to thrive in an ai and tech driven landscape as a non-technical person what would be your advice for that sure so i think uh the advice would first of all be different for depending on what you plan to do but since you're talking specifically about managers executives who are non-technical but they have to lead technical projects in future they have to hire engineers and manage engineers and gain respect of their engineers i think the the biggest advice is to not think about technology as much but the first step is to be a student of your business and what i mean by that is so take an example of a business that is that has nothing to do with technology yeah just go for it give me an example so let's say makeup cosmetic industry makeup cosmetics industry okay so let's say you are like let's go more specific let's say you are a business owner running like a makeup parlor or something like that yes right and i guess a small makeup parlor probably wouldn't you know need too much technology but let's say you have a successful makeup makeup makeup parlor and now you want to scale it up all right there's literally three parts of the business one is how do you get your customers where do you find them and how do you bring them to your doorstep the second is providing the service you know which means you get the supplies and you hire people and they provide the service for you and then the third part is just you know uh keep the whole thing going like circular in a circle right and so now i would ask you with this business if you could hire 100 000 people for free you work on your business for free and how would that change your business how would that change what you do right how would that change your marketing how would that change your scale how would you your sales how would that change your the way you provide the service


and think and when you take that question and give that question to someone who runs a makeup parlor depending on how they think about the different parts of their business you will have you will come up with very interesting business models right you could say oh i would hire people i would get people to go down every street of the country and just talk about my business like just advertise for me okay that's one way to put that those people to work the other the other is to um you know from the supplier point of view like where do you find your suppliers um do you get the cheapest price right how do you hire people to compare all the different products um on the internet and so


me personally i don't have a makeup background but uh that was that's just what i came up with like how that changes and it's very similar to how technology will change your business right because technology basically allows you to do a few things faster you can automate some things and you can do things at a bigger scale because it's cheap labor in a way right it's that's what it is and so for every industry when i talk to founders i have you know one executive student who is a gold mining executive from south africa uh he works at a gold mining company and we talked about the gold mining business how it works what what's the value chain where are the inefficiencies of the business and then we see oh instead of trying to you know swing a wand like a magic wand of digital transformation which is not possible you look at each each little part of the business of the value chain and you see how technology could reduce the cost or make it easier or make it faster and when you deploy technology in enough of these small parts at the end of the day you see wow i just made 30 more margins by just small changes right but how as a non-technical person how can you make sure that you get the right resources to right places yeah great question so if you're non-technical uh i think the one where i would start that the answer is i think the bad advice that you should not follow is to learn to program learn to code don't take programming classes unless you want to for different reasons but but i think there's a lot there's a big movement right now to teach everyone to code because that's what everybody needs and i totally disagree myself as an engineer i'm telling people to not learn to code unless they want to become an engineer if you're an executive what you really need to understand is the moving parts of a software system so you need to understand just the basics of what is the front end what is the back end what is the programming language what is code what is a program how does a computer work you know at a very basic level um how do what is a database yep is this something you you teach also like where can people go to learn this basics yeah so i was so it's the unfortunately there's there are not a lot of resources in the industry which are geared towards beginners like completely non-technical people because most engineers when they write a book or an article they write it for other engineers to read from their own community i do have a lot of you know free resources on a blog you don't even need to give me an email just you know you can just go and read the blog the blog posts that i have and i try to you know pass on that basic information and and i was fortunate because i you know that's what i saw as my as a business gap for my own company where there's a gap in in the content in the education space and i decided that i should fill it for other people i see interesting so second question i had for you is um how can one whoa how can sorry how can executives and entrepreneurs people who are in the management position who are non-technical can intelligently speak with engineers and also manage the hiring process and everything like that


yes so the thing is uh what is so the first question is what is an what is an intelligent conversation right an intelligent conversation is doesn't mean that you know everything and you're an expert in the field right an intelligent conversation is where two people are talking and they can completely understand each other right and it doesn't matter if one is much less of an expert than the other person right even in education even a place where you are learning more from the engineer is a good conversation as long as the engineer doesn't feel that you don't know anything and i have to teach you everything from scratch because that's a frustrating conversation for one side right so the key to an intelligent conversation is to first of all stay at the high level uh so the manager the manager should ideally try to understand enough of the high level where they can make high level technical decisions like all right so this is the application we are building let's say we're and so i know what will happen on the back end i know what will happen on the front end what kind of system we are trying to build you know the overall business requirements you take the business requirements and you translate them into high level technical requirements and then the intelligent conversation is basically to collaborate with the engineer okay this is what i think what do you think and then how can we implement this right because you're a manager you're not you're not you're not being managed by the engineer you are managing the engineer so you have to tell them this is what you want as a business yeah and then you take you build a partnership with the engineering team to reach that goal it's like it's like you have you are an architect or you are a home owner and you're talking to the the people who do construction like okay this is what i want i want a staircase like this i want a room this big and a kitchen like that and whatnot and now the construction person who is the expert can talk to you about okay how can you achieve that what are the resources you need how much money will it take uh what is possible and what it's not possible right so i mean um what we talked about actually brought me another question so often time what i witness in one of the challenges that people face when they work in a team leaders usually leaders often face this problem where they have something that they want to get done like from business perspective but at this point ignoring the the technical perspective but we come up with the idea and we want the engineers to work on it right so we have a certain level of expectation of what is possible from technical side on the other hand there's engineers who work in the actual field to understand the reality of what is possible and what is not um so at this point like the conversation uh the teams often have to face in this situation is you know engineers uh really being frustrated about the expectation business people make without the technical understanding of the situation versus business people at the same time have this frustration about engineers not uh delivering what they expect right so how do you think is the optimal approach for leaders and also maybe engineers as well like um to basically uh create productive conversation instead of being frustrated about about the gap in the expectation


yeah so uh i mean it's a difficult uh situation definitely because what is what's happening here is that two people are two sides are living in different realities right uh and that's a pretty big bridge a bridge a big river to build a bridge on um and i think the onus is on both the problem is on both sides and the solution is also on both sides um i think for the for the first part engineers often don't do a good enough job of patiently and respectfully explaining to their non-technical managers and leaders how what their reality really is right and they don't really and they don't always understand also the business reality that somebody has to pay for it they have limited money and they have some business schools that are there that they would like to reach right and that and reaching that business goal is good for everyone even the engineers not just for the leaders right um and then on the other side you know the manager of course they need to understand they also need to live in reality like this is what's possible and you cannot change the physics of the world to create something uh that does not that's not gonna happen what is the conversation look like what is the productive conversation look like then instead of blaming game like starting the blaming game doesn't produce anything right instead of that what kind of conversation should it look like if we want to just focus on production instead of framing game when that happens i think um it's mainly about listening uh and i think the best the best way in this kind of situation where if if any of the person the people listening to this ever face this kind of situation what i would suggest they do is uh to take turns first the business person the leader should go to a wide the white board or blackboard and describe the overall big picture from the business side okay this is what the goal is this is how much money we need to spend on this and you know this is our perspective okay and then you know after the listener the engineer has been patiently listening then the engineer can go to the white board themselves and explain okay so at the high level this is what is possible why and why not right because i think again being patient and really explaining your perspective about and giving and treating them as smart people you know and business leaders are also smart it's not like you if you if you actually try to explain to them it's not like they won't understand or they won't listen in most cases in most cases i think so it needs to be a one by one conversation where one is teaching the other and then the other is teaching the first until now we've been talking about managing but now let's switch gear to hiring is there something neither should uh keep in mind when they hire technical person i see so if if a leader if a business leader doesn't have an expertise or even like good you know deep deep enough knowledge about that particular you know technology that is required for the product the first the first well there's two there's two parts to the advice one is keep learning about that technology as much as possible okay that is the one that is one parallel track of action the other parallel track of action is that the engineers you need to be looking for you need to be hiring at this point are those who are natural teachers um why do you say that you should be engineers who love teaching and who love sharing their knowledge because if you hire an engineer at this point okay you have nobody else on the team if you hire an engineer to work on a technical product and he basically just does his own thing and he doesn't tell you how it works then first of all it's going to be very hard to manage them it's going to be you know that communication gap will will stay alive that we mentioned that we talked about earlier and there's also a chance that the engineer can take advantage of the business leader and they can go off into or maybe not even not even due to intention maybe unintentionally they can go off in their own direction they have their own understanding of i think this is what the business person is trying to say and i'm just going to build it the way i think is make sense right so the first few engineers that you surround yourself with as a non-technical as a completely non-technical person yeah are those who love teaching so a good way to say that to see that is see if the business that engineer is used to giving talks does he write on a blog has he written a book does he give the seminars does he teach other you know beginning engineers


look for signs that this person enjoys teaching and explaining things innovation is a must thing um that all businesses have to have some sort of flexibility and also we have to watch out for any like change and well i wouldn't call it trend but you know new technology that allow us to expand more faster cheaper like we should already always even as a business people look out to um so as a non-technical people like what would be like is there any way method that you recommend for us to keep updated on you know new technology that directly affects the the way business operate you know whether that's on marketing whether that's like for example you know voice the seo voice is super you know it's kind it's kind of coming it's not fully there yet like people are kind of getting reps of it i'm watching out for a lot um but you know like things like that like how can non-technical people i mean for that matter for in general i think people in general like how can we stay on top of this like a new information all the time um yeah um so the thing is um in general if you're just generally looking out for technical trends that just goes comes down to individual curiosity like how like some people read the news much more than you know other people i personally don't read the news too much because it's a lot of politics these days right meaning yeah um but if you're a business owner or if you are working in an industry right then i have some you know more specific advice for people like that because then again it comes back to number one being a student of your profession uh being a student of your business so you understand your business inside out you understand the economics of your business once you have that done then you want to always look out for signals about how the latest technology might change the different you know modules of your business the different things that go on in your business because any business you could take that business as a block and you could uh you know break it down into small things that must be done right that is what a business is right now if i was a business owner and who you know uh who wanted to who wanted to stay on top of the latest technologies because the want is necessary i would advise them to have maybe a one-hour session every every month or whatever your cadence is to talk to bring bring a small group of engineers together and yourself and some business people and just have a brainstorming session about okay where again it's the same conversation the business people try to explain their business to the engineers and the engineers can come up with ideas like hey i heard this technology is coming up maybe you can maybe you can do this part of the business more efficiently or better or you know i think just uh being open to ideas from your own employees from the engineers and extending a warm welcome like okay please help us make the business better you're not just here to be engineers and write code or you know do technical stuff you're also part of the team and so we want to learn from you and get your ideas right so yeah amen thank you very much for coming today for my show the ask falling connect podcast we had a really interesting insight from you so i appreciate your time thank you so much for having me

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