I find it interesting that so many technology clients tell me they have no issue with their spoken English in many tech jobs. Apparently they can get by sitting at their desk or working remotely and having meetings on the net as long as they produce code or fix technical issues. The big uptick in language ability requirements happens when these technology folks decide they want to move into sales or marketing. It’s a whole other animal. At first, they think they know enough about engineering, latest technical developments and how technology works to add value, but pretty early on they realize it’s more about how you communicate. They get frustrated when their ideas can’t be heard, explored, incorporated and implemented. They often don’t get past square one because they don’t have the pronunciation, the vocabulary and the confidence to be clear, persuasive, and “disruptive”. They end up going along to get along and giving up on having an impact, which can be the kiss of death in being successful in their new careers.
Part of it seems to be that working alongside native speakers of American English is more demanding speech-wise than working among other non-native speakers from other countries. Another part is that communication skills, like discussing strategy, brainstorming, conceptualizing, and investigate new ideas and presenting solutions for buy-in, are of much greater use in a sales and marketing environment. The very nature of the work requires leveling up language skills.
The problem is that most non-native speakers who are great at technology don’t polish their speaking skills until later in life when they really need them. They have to play catch-up in the 11th hour to compete successfully in their working environments and live up to everyone’s expectations. It can be a daunting task, but realizing that the need for highly honed communication skills dramatically increases in sales and marketing jobs should help techies prepare in advance, early in their careers, for the challenges ahead.