Conversations With Normals: When No One Understands Your Job

Minions in conversation
(Credit: Leovalente on PixaBay)
Have you ever had a moment when your absolute immersion in something is presented to you on a silver platter as entirely not the norm? When you are suddenly the absolute nerdiest person in a room full of "normal people" who work in entirely non-technical industries?

Yeah, that.

Exhibit A: My Non-Techie Friend

I was at a friend's place last weekend, caught in an introvert's nightmare hanging with a bunch of people I had never met in honour of said friend's birthday. Interestingly (to me, anyway) she introduced me as her "techie friend, as in someone who actually understands how the Internet works." Which I thought odd: I mean, despite my nerd tendencies, I work with people who understand the underbelly of the Internet far better than I ever will. But I let it go because really, no one there was a tech nerd and wouldn't know the difference anyway.

Then it came up again: Later in the evening, we were having an introvert-extrovert discussion and got to talking about speaking engagements. I mentioned that, despite my introversion, I really enjoy presenting when I know my sh*t but that I have an absolute reticence toward speaking opportunities where I don't fully know my subject. That's when the audience scares me the most. I mentioned that my first professional speaking opp, when I was 23 and less than a year out of university: I was sent by myself to speak at a tech conference in San Jose where I knew all of 2 people (who I'd met online only) on tech that I had only been experienced with for about 5 months.

Someone asked, "what was the topic?"
Me: "Streaming video"
Them: "Wait, what year was this?"
Me: "1999."
Them: "You mean, when the Internet was text-based? You were streaming video when the Internet was basically words?"
Me: "Um... yeah. We had these algorithms..."
Them: O_o
My friend: "See? She's that techie."
Me: "Um..."

And in that moment, I was reminded that even though some of us live, eat and breathe technology, we're very very far down a rabbit hole that much of the population doesn't even think about on a daily basis.

Exhibit B: Hubby's Boss

Hubby had a very analog boss who used to always ask me questions about my job and look with wide-eyed wonder as I spoke. (It made me very uncomfortable.) She used to tell me all the time that she had no idea what I ever talked about and I always wondered why she insisted on peppering me with questions. Maybe she had an undying curiosity to understand the tech world which was so different from the catering world she lived in. Maybe she had an inner geek trying to get out. Maybe she thought I was from the future.

Turns out that I wasn't far off with that last one.

Once when we were out, and she was in the middle of asking me about my latest project, she turned to hubby and said, "I love hearing her talk. Everything she says sounds like it comes out of a sci-fi novel."

Someone pegging me as unintelligible entertainment. That was a new one.

Exhibit C: Hubby

Hubby has a brain for software and apps; he quickly becomes a power user of anything he tries but he has no idea what makes it work. His background is hospitality so whenever we take a road trip anywhere, everything is a potential hotel or Bed and Breakfast. Much to my I-would-rather-work-with-robots-than-people chagrin.

Hubby: "Check out that one. Ooooh, no, wait, that one. That would be a perfect little BnB. We could move out here, run the place, I could cook and you could..."
Me: "Yes, exactly what would I do? Me who doesn't like people?"
Hubby: "You could, um... build the website and do the social media things?"
Me: "I don't build websites."
Hubby: "...?"
Me: "What is it exactly you think I do for a living?"
Hubby: "...web... stuff... and Internet... things..."
Me: "Yes, dear. That's exactly what I do."

Mostly it just makes me laugh and wonder: if he can't get it after hearing about it daily for two decades, well, maybe there's just no hope. Will Hubby ever know what I do for a living? How can my job seem so bizarre to other people? You'd think by now I'd be used to it, and for the most part I am, but it still throws me off sometimes. Especially when I feel like I'm being singled out in a public setting for being the absolute nerdiest person in a room. I'm happy to nerd out with my peers but it always seems to weird to be identified as "the nerd" among non-nerds. Oh, wait, s'cuse me, I think my insecurity is showing. :)

If you're in the tech industry, I'm sure you have had similar interactions with friends and family. What's your weirdest conversation with normals? Do share!

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