Technical English For Engineers

What's This?

Working as an Engineer in the 21st century - especially in IT - requires an understanding of English. But more than that, it needs an understanding of technical English - and business English - that's quite different from standard English.

While you can't learn this all at once, these technical English expressions are commonly used in industry. Use this page as a glossary of engineering terms, as well as common business terms!

"Have you thought about..."

A diplomatic way to suggest someone consider an alternative

"I'm not sure..."

Used to soften a statement: "It's a great idea, but I'm not sure we'd be able to do it in time"

"Maybe a better approach..."

A polite way of suggesting an alternative, without directly rejecting someone else's suggestion

B2B

Business to business. Where a company like IBM sells products and services to other businesses

Beta software

Beta software may be unfinished or not work properly, and should not be used with customers

CEO

Chief Executive Officer. C-level executive who is responsible for a company's overall strategy and direction

CHRO

Chief Human Resources Officer. A C-level executive who is responsible for a company's overall HR policies, procedures, and all staff matters

CRM

Customer relationship management system. Used by companies to keep track of customer details, and for marketing

Car crash / train wreck

A situation which is bad and completely out of control. "Why should we spend more money on this project? It's a complete car crash."

Catering

Provision of food for people attending an event

Cultural sensitivities

Things to consider because of peoples' religion, nationality, sexual orientation etc. "We need to be aware of cultural sensitivities when planning the party"

Customer facing

A person, job or system which interfaces directly with your clients or customers

Demob happy

People who are leaving a job are often happy to be leaving - “demob happy”. Comes from when people left the army ("demobilised").

Eco-friendly

Having a positive effect on the environment

Environmental Impact

The effect a company has on the world at large - considering its pollution, carbon dioxide, travel, energy use, recycling and more

Firefighting

To be constantly having to fix new problems, rather than doing new work. "This project is a mess - I spend all my time firefighting."

Green Agenda

A set of policies and processes designed to make a company more effective about its impact on the environment

Handover

Sharing knowledge with another employee. Usually done when going on holiday or leaving a job

In the loop

Close to something; watching how it develops. "Please make sure to keep me in the loop."

Initiative

Similar to a project; work carried out to change or improve, for instance, employee satisfaction, morale, oe time to market

I’ve heard all this before!

Said if someone is trying to promise that something will be done, when they have previously said the same thing - and you are sceptical. Not rude, but very direct

Low-hanging fruit

Things which are easy to achieve - like picking fruit from the low branches of a tree. "Let see if we can find some low-hanging fruit to improve the situation"

Middle ground

An outcome where no-one gets what they want, but everyone gets something. A compromise

Not fit for purpose

If something is not fit for purpose, it’s fundamentally not suitable for what it’s meant to do. Think of a car with square wheels!

On the ground (2)

Physically located somewhere such as a customer's office. "I'm sorry, I need you on the ground"

Personal Problems

Things outside work which may be affecting your performance or timekeeping. Implies you don't really want to discuss details

Reference site

A company which has agreed to act as a “showroom” for a supplier. SuperTech might be a reference site for IBM storage systems, for instance

Rev (revenue) Share

A business model where the two companies split the profits between them

SME

Small-to-medium enterprise. Companies with between about 20 and about 250 employees

Servant leader

A senior manager or leader who sees their job as supporting or enabling their teams, rather than just telling them what to do

Staff turnover

People leaving and joining a team or company over time. High turnover is often bad - but very low turnover can lead to stagnation

Startup

A small, new business. Often a technology company offering something different from what’s currently available

Straight-talking

Honest and direct in communication. Sometimes meaning "too direct"

Technical debt

When features are prioritised over bug-fixing and refactoring code, problems can build up. This is known as technical debt

Thought leadership

'Thought leaders' are usually experts in their field, who inspire others with the way they communicate or solve problems.

To achieve the same outcome

To get the same effect in a different way

To be all over (something)

To be focusing or working hard on a problem. "Trust me, I'll tell you as soon as I know more - I'm all over it."

To be hot on

To carefully look for or notice. “You should wear a shirt and tie. The new boss is very hot on personal appearance.”

To bring forward

To do something earlier than planned. “Our competitor will launch before us. We need to bring the launch forward.”

To consider your position

Diplomatic way of saying decide whether you want to stay in your job. "I may need to consider my position'

To deputise

To do work normally done by a superior, for instance when your boss is busy or on holiday

To get it

To indicate that you understand what someone is saying. "Ah, so the network isn't fast enough. I get it"

To jump through hoops

To do something tedious, requiring many steps. “To hire a new developer, I have to jump through hoops with HR and Finance.”

To monitor and review

To see how something develops over time, and discuss it regularly

To push back (1)

To delay something. “It isn’t ready. We need to push the launch back 2 weeks.”

To reach out (to someone)

To contact - often for the first time. "I'll give you my Technical Architect's details - please reach out to her"

To wave a magic wand

To do the impossible. "I'll try, but I can't wave a magic wand".

Trouble at home

Used to indicate there may be a reason your performance or timekeeping isn't as good as usual. Implies you don't really want to discuss details

What do you bring to the party?

What skills/value do you contribute to the team, project or company?

Working from home (WFH)

To work remotely rather than having to be based in the office. Some people are fully remote; others may WFH 1 day a week

"I'm afraid..."

Used to soften a statement: "I'm afraid we tried that already. It didn't work"

"It would be helpful if..."

Polite way of asking if something could be done. "It would be helpful if we could review the figures from last year first"

Additional functionality

New customers often ask for new features or integrations to existing products. This can be described as 'additional functionality'

B2C

Business to customer. Where a company like Netflix sells products or services direct to the public

Business-critical

A system or service which is essential to the functioning of the business or company

CFO

Chief Financial Officer. C-level executive who is responsible for a company's overall financial wellbeing and governance

CIO

Chief Information Officer. C-level executive, responsible for a company's overall technical infrastructure and processes. Similar to CTO but more internally focused

CTO

Chief Technology Officer. C-level executive, responsible for a company's overall technical infrastructure and processes. Similar to CIO but more externally focused

Carbon Footprint

The total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) a company generates, because of electricity, travel, catering and other activities.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Calculating how much a project or initiative will cost, and comparing to the benefit it will give a company

Current Financial Climate

The state of the economy in general, and the company in particular. "In the current financial climate, we can't afford to upgrade the system"

Deep dive

To examine a topic or problem in real detail; to focus on a problem until it's resolved. "We have to fix this issue. Let's get the team together for a deep dive session"

Disciplinary Issues

Problems an employee has had at work with bad behaviour. "Your work is OK, but we can't overlook your disciplinary issues"

Energy-efficient

Things which are designed to save electricity or power: low-energy lighting, office equipment, etc

Feature creep

A project may have 10 features to begin with. This usually increases. The scope “creeps” larger over time

Go-to guy

The person who really knows about something, or how to do something. People “go to” him or her

HR System

A software tool used by companies to keep track of their employees details - date of birth, address, job title, salary etc.

Hygiene factors

Comparatively basic things, not noticed but important that they are there. “On-site parking is a basic hygiene factor.”

Industry leading / standard

The most popular product in its area, often with a large number of companies or people using it

It won't happen again.

"I apologise. I know I made a mistake, but I won't repeat it."

Leave that/it with me

Said to reassure someone that you understand their problem, will look into it and respond to them

Major growth area

Part of the company, or industry, which is becoming more popular or profitable.

My door is always open

Said by managers to encourage people not to be afraid to email or otherwise contact them

On the ground (1)

The reality of something. "It looks great on a PowerPoint, but it won't work on the ground"

Payback Period

How long it takes to recover the cost of investment. "Swapping to energy-efficient bulbs will pay back in 2 years"

Plugged in / into

Connected to; aware of what's happening with, for example, a project. "Yeah, I'm plugged into that project."

Requirements Specification

A document that clearly defines what a product or platform does; what it doesn't do; or changes/new features that are needed

SLA

Service Level Agreement. A contract or document which says how quickly you will respond to a customer and fix problems caused by your service

SPOF

Single Point of Failure. A person, connection or server which has no backup

Site Visit

When you visit a customer, partner or venue, or when they visit your company.

Stakeholder

Someone, usually senior, who has a special interest in a project

Steering group

A group of senior people who meet regularly to oversee a project

Suitable venue

A location or building which is appropriate for the purpose intended

Teetotal

Someone who doesn't drink alcohol is teetotal, or a teetotaller

Time-to-market (TTM)

How long it takes for a company to take new ideas or products, and make them available to their customers

To be across something

To carefully monitor and be kept informed about something: "Don't worry, I'm across it."

To be hands on

To get personally involved in the details of how something works

To be on the same page

To share an opinion about how something should work. "I think we're on the same page".

To catch up with

To meet. “Let’s try to catch up with Bob.”

To delegate

To assign tasks or responsibility to more junior team members, and support them doing this

To escalate

To talk about a problem with someone more senior. You might escalate to your manager; a customer might do the same.

To get your feet under the table

To settle in or get comfortable in a new job

To make available

To make sure time, equipment etc is there when it’s needed. “The old boss always made herself available if we needed to see her.”

To need a bit of work

A polite way of saying that you need to improve. "Technically excellent, but communication needs a bit of work"

To push back (2)

To argue against something. "The customer is demanding we launch in 2 months, but I'm pushing back"

To waffle

To talk too much and without focus

To work (your) notice

When you have resigned but must work for 1-3 months more, you are “working your notice”

USP

Unique Selling Point. Something that makes your product or service different from all the others

What’s your role?

Specifically: what’s your job or title? More generally: what do you do in the company?

© 2020 Open Argot English Teaching | marco@openargot.com | Guadalajara, México