These days, more and more of us are learning tech skills and using them at work (even if our job title isn’t anything close to “engineer” or “developer”).

But technical skills can range from a basic knowledge of Excel formulas to knowing enough code to break the internet. So, even if you can whip up an amazing PowerPoint presentation in no time or wrangle complex spreadsheets, you’ve probably still noticed some tech terms flying around that have left you scratching your head.

Instead of pretending you understand when your colleagues from IT bring them up in the next meeting or trying to ignore the email from your boss that includes terms like “data visualization,” why not take a few minutes to figure out what they mean and why they’re important to you? Even if you don’t need to use those tools in your job, you’ll be able to communicate with those who do. Plus, you’ll impress your boss—and maybe even boost your career—in the process of learning more about the technical side of things.


1. Big Data

Let’s start off large! Big data doesn’t mean numbers so long that you can’t count all the zeros—it means large sets of information that computers analyze and feed through different lenses so they can make sense of the way markets and people behave.

Big data has become possible thanks to all the information fed into the internet through all our devices. And it’s important because companies of all kinds can take advantage of big data to find trends and patterns to improve their products and services and, in turn, their bottom line. (We all know how being in the red makes your boss happy—or not.)


2. CMS

You might already use a CMS, or content management system, and not even realize it. A CMS is an application that lets you manage content (like text, videos, and photos) on websites. The most popular CMS is WordPress. In fact, over 25% of all sites are powered by WordPress (including those of many major companies, nonprofits, and organizations)—reason alone for you to make sure you get WordPress down pat! Even if you don’t end up working with code, knowing how to navigate a CMS like WordPress and update a website’s content is invaluable.


3. Data Visualization

If “seeing is believing” for you, data visualization is right up your alley! It’s the technique of making information more understandable by creating diagrams such as graphs, charts, or tables. Since looks matter when it comes to data visualization, that means it’s time for you to brush up on your design and Photoshop skills. Creating killer infographics can help your team better understand the numbers that are most important to your business or let your customers (or hiring managers!) more easily see how amazing you are.


4. HTML

HTML might seem like alphabet soup, but it’s actually something you see each time you go to a website. HTML (which stands for HyperText Markup Language) is what’s used to put content on webpages and structure it. Think of HTML as little cubbyholes your browser recognizes: You fill them up with content, like bios, blog posts, and images. So, whether it’s your company’s site or that personal portfolio you’ve been meaning to make, HTML is what it’s built with, and knowing the language is the very first step to getting started in tech.


5. JavaScript

Don’t panic! We’re not talking about Java here. Although both are programming languages, JavaScript is the fun one (and, fun fact, JavaScript and Java aren’t actually related). JavaScript, or JS, lets you make web pages interactive, which means fancy effects like smooth scrolling and drop-down menus. JavaScript also allows you to hook into other sites (think: features like Twitter feeds, RSS feeds, and maps). So, wrap your head around JavaScript programming, and you’ll be able to engage your company’s customers like never before.

Of course, if you’d rather leave the animations to the IT department at your office, that’s fine, but understanding the basic concept of JavaScript means you’ll know what you’re asking for when you ask to add a drop-down menu to your company site.


6. The Cloud

This is the buzz-iest of buzzwords at the moment, but the cloud is really just any computer (often called a “server”) on which information is stored or applications are run. Commonly storing data in “the cloud” means you are storing it off of your personal computer and accessing it via the internet. You can get to that data or application with your phone, tablet, or laptop from anywhere as long as you’re online.

Your company can be more flexible and save some serious cash with the cloud, and it’s almost certain that you’re already using it almost every day (since it’s what powers just about all online services around). So it’s worth knowing what it’s all about.


7. Two-Factor Authentication

Last but not least is a technology that you probably aren’t using yet but definitely should be. Two-factor authentication is one way to be safer online—and what’s the point of all this tech if it’s not safe and secure?

Instead of asking just your username and password to log in to a site, two-factor authentication requires that you also have some thing to prove you are who you are. That can be your phone (to which a special code is sent via SMS), a card with PIN codes, or even your fingerprint (like in Apple’s Touch ID). If you think taking care of your Twitter account or keeping hackers out of your bank account is important, just imagine how your company feels about protecting its online assets! Maybe now you can be the one who saves the day for your employer by suggesting two-factor authentication.



Since you’ve got the lowdown now on the hottest tech buzzwords, why not take it to the next level and start your journey into tech? Whether you’re looking for a whole new career or ready to take the next step in your current job, being the employee who knows tech is a sure way to stay on top!


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