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why speak as a programmer?  RSS feed

 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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I was at a Toastmasters training and someone asked me "why do you speak if you are a programmer"? (the implication we only work with computers.) I wrote my answer and put it online.

What reasons do you speak?
 
Stephan van Hulst
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I don't understand the question. What does "speaking as a programmer" mean?
 
John Carlos
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We should all learn to speak well, it helps you in any job.  You speak to your manager.  You speak to your team.  If you're Scrum, you have lots of meetings(*ahem*) and need to speak often.  Toastmasters is probably the number 1 thing I did for myself that has helped me the most professionally.  If I knew I was going to have to talk some time during the week, like give a demo to a group of people, I was so full of anxiety the night before that I would not sleep.  It was that bad.  I'd lay in bed the entire night, awake.

So what's it like now?  Yea, I used to be the shy programmer who only wanted to talk to computers.  But then in job meetings, I appeared to be disengaged.  That's not what most employers want, at all.  Now things are reversed.  I speak often, my managers think it's great.  I'm engaged and now seen as more of a leader.  How awesome is that?  Get comfortable speaking!  It's the best thing you can do.  I recommend Toastmasters to anyone whenever I get the chance.

And now I love talking.  It's changed my personal life.  I didn't know how much I would enjoy public speaking.  I never miss an opportunity. 
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Stephan van Hulst wrote:I don't understand the question. What does "speaking as a programmer" mean?

If you are in marketing, nobody is surprised if you want to learn how to speak well. But as a programmer, ....
 
Stephan van Hulst
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Oh I see! I misread the question I think. Maybe I should speak less and listen more XD
 
Jesper de Jong
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Being a software developer is of course much more than sitting behind a computer all day and typing in code. A large and important part of it, which a lot of people overlook, is communicating with your peers, managers, users of your software and clients. If you want to become more effective at your job, and get further than just following instructions that your manager gives you, then the first thing you need to learn is to communicate effectively with the people you are collaborating with.

I've given a few presentations at conferences and I joined Toastmasters because I want to become better at presenting. There are many aspects that go into being a great presenter - from how you structure your story to how you use your voice, body language, using clear language, making the presentation interesting and engaging etc. To get really good at it you need to practice a lot. Toastmasters is great because it gives you lots of opportunities to practice with all the different aspects and to get feedback, so that you know what you are doing well and what you need to improve.

Jeanne, can you explain a bit more about how Toastmasters helped you drastically decrease the amount of time you need for preparing a presentation? It still takes me a lot of time to prepare.
 
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When I was at the hospital, it was taken for granted we had to stand up and present things, cases, papers, research findings, etc at regular intervals. I have on several occasions had to give more important presentations; for one module for my MSc I gave the presentation to a friend the night before and he told me it was bad, so I took the criticism to heart and that converted a grade B to a grade A. I have also helped others similarly myself. As Jesper says, one of the skills of being a developer is explaining what you are doing to the rest of the company.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Jesper de Jong wrote:Jeanne, can you explain a bit more about how Toastmasters helped you drastically decrease the amount of time you need for preparing a presentation? It still takes me a lot of time to prepare.

I've been in Toastmasters for about 8 years and "graduated" with my DTM. I still do it though to practice and mentor others.

It helped decrease my prep time for a few reasons:
  • I have a REALLY good grasp of how much content goes into 5-7 minutes (speech), 1-2 minutes (table topics) and 2-3 minutes (speech evaluation). So I know how many points I can expect to make in how much time
  • .
  • The more I practice turning a few bullet points into a speech, the more comfortable I get. I also find I need less practice and less "hops" to get from bullets on a post it to a good sounding speech
  • Experimentation - I can try different jokes and techniques in the club and know what is likely to work
  • Confidence - comes from practice of course. And from getting feedback
  • Confidence again - knowing I can stray from the material, be impromptu and still be effective
  •  
    fred rosenberger
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    Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:I was at a Toastmasters training and someone asked me "why do you speak if you are a programmer"?

    Doesn't the question answer itself? You speak (at least in part) because people ask you questions.
     
    Jeanne Boyarsky
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    fred rosenberger wrote:
    Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:I was at a Toastmasters training and someone asked me "why do you speak if you are a programmer"?

    Doesn't the question answer itself? You speak (at least in part) because people ask you questions.

    I suspect the snarkyness that I'd have included in that answer made it a bad idea to try!
     
    Jan de Boer
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    Speaking in public is probably one of the few things I am good at, as a programmer. Am I an exception then? The few things I liked about scrum was the sprint review. I used to do the presentations. I am not nervous, I actually love getting the attention of a group of people. It was the one thing I could do every two weeks, which I knew I was actually *better* at than my peer programmers. Technically, I think I am worse. I love the interaction with the audience, and getting the timing right to make a joke, while keeping their attention focused when we got to the technical issues. I used to perform in the school cabaret, my mother and grandfather were into amateur drama. My mother was a school teacher. People just like doing what they are good at, and the team like it that I was doing it because most other programmers in the team were afraid to talk in public.

    But then our manager came, told us 'this was not agile', and that the task of presenter should switch to a different member of the group every sprint review. And that a rule, and there is no discussion. Thank you...!
     
    Jesper de Jong
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    Jan de Boer wrote:Speaking in public is probably one of the few things I am good at, as a programmer. Am I an exception then?

    You're not just an exception as a programmer, but in general. Most people are not very good at public speaking. In fact, some say that people fear public speaking more than death... although I doubt that that's really true.

    I've noticed from my experience with Toastmasters that I've quickly lost the fear, and now I even find it hard to imagine why people fear it so much.
     
    Jan de Boer
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    Jesper de Jong wrote:You're not just an exception as a programmer, but in general.


    Actually you are right. When I did the athletic trainers course, two of the pupils with far better running skill than I have, quitted because they disliked speaking in public. (As you may know, I am a running coach.) I should make this into a career opportunity somehow. I already take advantage of it, by showing the management that when I am quiet, it does not mean I am shy. When I am quiet, I am concentrating on my work. If you talk to an audience of a few dozens with such flair, you prove that you are not timid. Unfortunately my presenter task was stopped, because no member of the team should have a specialized task. Which I think is silly actually. Maybe give Dutch classes to the foreigners here is an idea. It would show my teaching skills to the management.
     
    Randall Twede
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    I had to take a public speaking class at college. I had a 4.0 average at the time and was somewhat concerned I would do badly. I got a B
     
    Tony Sonntag
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    Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:I was at a Toastmasters training and someone asked me "why do you speak if you are a programmer"? (the implication we only work with computers.) I wrote my answer and put it online.

    What reasons do you speak?

    That's great.I have read your post.
     
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