If you’ve been in technology, and especially in Silicon Valley, for any stretch of time, then there’s little question you’ve heard some cringe-worthy buzzwords in your day. Whether at work, in an investor pitch or in any over-priced craft coffee joint in San Francisco, you will hear techies replace reasonable phrases with obnoxious terms that make them feel smart and special.
The tech industry is home to some of the most intelligent, visionary and successful people you will find anywhere. Yet so many of those same people use phrases and buzzwords that make them sound unintelligent, lazy and arrogant.
While the phrases themselves change, the existence of buzzwords never seems to go away. Here’s a list of the most obnoxious buzzwords you’ll hear in the tech industry and especially in Silicon Valley.
1. “Can I pick your brain?”
There are multiple things wrong with this question. First, it sounds gruesome and awful. Second, it is used most commonly by people who want free advice. If you want someone’s advice, then respect their time by taking them to lunch or paying the full value of their advice and time. Or you can just ask, “Can I get your help with something?”
I’m not as smart as others in tech, yet I’m pretty sure “optionality” simply means the existence of options. I cringe every time someone says “we have optionality” when they could just say “we have options” in an effort to sound smart.
3. “Circle back”
This phrase describes the intent for two parties to communicate again after some amount of time has passed and/or progress has been made. Yet if you circle back to the starting point of the circle, have you made any progress? Just tell people you’ll connect again and define the milestones that warrant the follow-up.
This millennial replacement for “self-funded” has come to describe the shared experience of almost every startup in history: the need to start a business with limited funds. Millennials use this term to sound special, yet it just makes them sound like they want a trophy for being entrepreneurs.
5. “Double Opt-in Intro”
A “double opt-in intro” describes the process of making an introduction between two people who both agree for the introduction to be made. It’s entirely redundant since anyone who values their connections will get permission before making the introduction anyway. It’s ok for all of us to go back to saying “introduction.”
Thanks in part to Gary Vaynerchuk, many millennial entrepreneurs are as obsessed with “hustling” (or appearing to hustle on social media) as they are with actually starting, scaling or operating their business. Hustling, in and of itself, should not be the objective. Hustling should be the means to reach objectives – and only when it’s balanced with the healthy rest that all humans need to achieve sustained performance over time.
7. “The Uber (or Airbnb) of ________”
While there are certainly instances in which re-purposing underutilized assets is a great idea, the application of this concept has gotten out of hand. We don’t need the “Uber” of every possible thing. Most ideas like this shouldn’t even make it out of a brainstorming session. When an investor hears “The Uber of ______” or “The Airbnb of _____”, you’ll likely be written off immediately.
I know it’s an accurate term in most cases, but it’s time for us to let this word go.
9. “Let’s take this offline”
This phrase suggests that two parties will continue a conversation at another time, without others around. The irony is that this phrase is used when people are talking in person, or over the phone, and not online.
Since “unicorns” have become common enough that they’re no longer special, the tech community decided that “decacorn” was needed to further differentiate the super elite from the elite.
Even though they are annoying and obnoxious, these terms are mostly harmless. Yet when you use them, you run the risk of giving off a different impression than you might intend. They can make you sound lazy and cliche. Find ways to articulate your thoughts in a more intelligent way and you’ll convey yourself as unique, expressive and capable.