Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tribes

So I'm writing this form the lobby of the hotel they're putting me up in while I do some work in Ontario. There are a handful of others working for the same company at various sites staying here as well. Mostly your typical techie lot, all male, all pretty much what you'd expect.

Interestingly there's also a large group of people here who have just started working for a pharmaceutical company as salespeople, I'm guessing they're those people who go around and give doctors free pens and golf days in exchange for pimping their company's latest overpriced allergy pill.

The differences between the tech people and the sales people in the way they act and communicate almost makes it look like they're speaking entirely different languages. I've just been doing my usual thing and being a social chameleon and talking to whoever happens to be around when I'm down here getting coffee or doing laundry or whatever, and it's very striking to just observe the social cues involved in keeping up with the salespeople's conversations, vs. the assumed background knowledge that is taken as a given when talking t oa tech person.

There's a definite set of codes in both cases that people rely on as a signal to say 'I'm with you'. I simply couldn't picture one of the techs trying to shmooze a doctor at a softball game, nor could I see one of these kids, fresh off of working at ski lodges and in bars and wherever else you find overly charismatic but under-skilled people trying to wrap their head around some large, complicated software system.

Even in high school the differences between the various cliques weren't so pronounced, the differences here seem to even go to the level of how our brains are structured.

I'm very glad I seem to have picked up a talent for talking to people across age and social groups, life would be terribly dull if I had to only live inside a single social group. I guess I've always been a floater, though.

By al - 9:20 AM |

Comments:
I'm told I have a particular ability to float across social strata as well. I'm not sure to what extent it's true.

This post reminded me of something a friend told me. He lives in NYC and used to take a ferry across the Hudson to lower Manhattan every morning. These ferries would be loaded with loud, testosterone-fueled young Wall Street type-A's and it took my friend a long time to realize the conversations he overheard were about the markets. It sounded to him as though they were talking excitedly about sports or war or sex or something entirely unrelated to financial markets. You can imagine... "Dude, we killed them yesterday... we forced those pricks to cover their short position and took them for 10 points!". Or whatever.

On the other hand, I've seen some techies get pretty worked up -- scarily so -- about some esoteric software issue. Snorts and all.
 
I am a technician, and used to dread when the suits & ties from sales would come in to give a tour of the central office at the telephone company. Sales guys are from a different planet, seeming so shallow and exactly as you described. Then I opened my own business and guess what? I sucked at sales. The few customers I had liked me, but I just couldn't bring in enough business. So, now that I am employed again in the telephone world I make ane extra effort to help sales people. Their personalities seem flaky to me - but they can do what I can't so I respect that now. Live and learn.
 
It's not an easy life for most of them, either. I wouldn't want to have to plan my family's budget around expected commissions and then hit a dry spell.

But there are a few, like my sister, who are rather disgustingly good at it and it makes you wish tech people had a similar performance measure, when you're on a good day anyway.
 
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