Explaining what your tech occupation is can be difficult enough at a networking reception or professional event. Explaining it to a child of kindergarten age, however, presents its own quirky challenge.
Inspired by the ever popular subreddit r/explainlikeimfive, we asked technologists and tech-adjacent pros on the Technical.ly Slack how they would describe their jobs to 5-year-olds. And as a reporter who would likely answer that same question by saying that they write stories while wildly gesticulating, I will say that the ease with which each person responded is admirable.
Here’s what they said.
“I make software that helps people find things that go together when they’re shopping at [a store]. And I help other people who make software make friends with other people who make software and then we get together and talk about software, our jobs, our brains, and how it all affects our lives. And I’m working on something to get people internet access when they can’t afford it or when other companies haven’t wired up their house yet, and I’m doing it without wires!”
- Colin Dean, Pittsburgh-based software engineer, managing director of coworking space and community Code & Supply and board president of Meta Mesh Wireless Communities
“I condensed it down for my kids to, ‘I type things into the computer and it tells the computer what to do’ and then I showed them by making them type some simple bash commands into the terminal to make a text file with a list of friends they want to invite to their birthday.”
- Charlotte Lee Jackson, DC-based data scientist and director of Women Who Code DC
“I am a marketing manager at a nonprofit that teaches girls about tech. I create the pictures and words that show and tell people what we do at this cool nonprofit that helps girls learn about tech.”
“I talk to people who have a complicated problem that I hope I can help solve. Then I help other people, who want to help solve that problem, understand it better.”
- Ben Novack, Philly-based product manager
“I’m director of ops for Tapp Network, a marketing and technology agency. I make sure the team is doing their jobs in the most efficient way. I make sure we’re profitable. I try to hire people who are a good fit.”
- Jen Reid, Wilmington-based director of operations for Tapp Network
“My kids call me a ‘website guy,’ so that’s what I do: I make the websites.”
- Louis Miller, Philly-based digital strategist
“I help moms and dads get coding jobs so they can buy 5-year-olds lots of really cool toys.”
“I used to be a developer advocate and I, too, wondered what I did. [Now] I’m a technical director at an agency. I manage a team of web developers.”
- Michael Shaheen, Pittsburgh-based technical director
Bonus: How did Technically Media staffers answer?
- “I’m an editor, which means other people tell me stories and I tell them how to make those stories better” — Technical.ly Managing Editor Julie Zeglen
- “I am a news organization CEO, which means I help people who rely on our newsroom to inform them meet other people for opportunities, like jobs/leads/ideas/connections” — CEO Chris Wink
- “As a reporter, I talk to a bunch of people to help readers understand what’s going on in a few-minute article” — Philly-based Technical.ly reporter Paige Gross
Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.