Ever since the Tower of Babel, complicated projects have failed due to poor communication. If you have a basic understanding of an industry, you can communicate much more effectively with business people, and reduce the risk of failure.
You can even create an attractive niche brand by combining your technical expertise with a deep understanding of how your industry works.
That’s nice, you might think, but how do you get this industry knowledge?
Here are six tips to get you started:
- Create a mental model: Make a boxes and arrows diagram of your current mental model of the domain. The remaining tips are all about growing and refining your model.
- Google it: A simple Google search, like “domain knowledge banking”, will give you a lot of good reads to get started with.
- Find a mentor: Find someone who really understands the domain and listen curiously to what they say about their work. People usually enjoy talking about what they are good at.
- Follow the experts: Find out who are the thought leaders of the industry, and follow their Twitter accounts and blogs.
- Read the trade journal: Find out what the major publication is in the industry and read it.
- Watch an employee at work: See somebody perform one of the key jobs in that industry. For example, spending a few hours with a call center employee will give you a whole new understanding of their fast-paced job.
The good news is that the fundamentals of most industries remain pretty stable over time, so once you have a basic understanding it won’t require a lot of maintenance.
And since most software engineers don’t bother to learn much about the industries they work in, you can easily get ahead with only a small investment of your time.