How to describe your startup job to Grandpa — when he doesn't use the internet

June 1, 2016
If you're anything like me, you've encountered the inevitable question at a family party: "What are you doing for work these days?" Realizing your audience is a little more than over the hill, you struggle to transcribe what you do in the simplest terms possible — only to have the explanation barely resemble what you actually do. 
We asked four Austin tech employees with technical or unique jobs that likely weren't around 30 years ago to tell us how they explain their position to Gramps. Here's what they said:

Jared Bieberich, Senior UI Developer at Get Smart Content

How would you describe your job to your grandpa? Like a car manufacturer I am responsible for hooking up everything in our app to the engine, and making it look fast, reliable, and enjoyable. (At this point I hope he just nods and assumes that I am the greatest human being of my generation, and we can crack open a cold Coors Light, his favorite beer, cheers, and continue saying everything without saying anything while staring off in the distance accepting that we don't understand each other's experiences or life decisions but it's ok because we are hard workers and family.)
How would you describe your job to a coworker? I am responsible for implementing all of the view layer code consisting mostly of HTML, CSS, and Javascript which controls the way our app looks and how you interact with it. I work with our designers providing technical and UX input, and then take the finished design and break it up into the interactive components that make up the page, and then work with our other app developers to hook it up to our databases as well as third-party APIs. (At this point I hope they just nod and assume I am not as weird as Tom, the guy sitting next me.)

Brandon Tribble, Web Developer at OnPrem

How would you describe your job to your grandpa? Do you remember how the radio changed the way information and ideas were spread all around the country when you were a young man? The high-availability of the internet is like that x100000000.  What I do, is contribute to that proliferation of ideas and information by creating experiences that can be consumed in a Web browser, which is the equivalent of a set-top radio back in the day. I essentially work on the 'broadcasts' that come through the 'radio', trying to keep up with the new and exciting types of things that 'listeners' are interested in. 
How would you describe your job to a coworker? Web developer for me means creating and maintaining applications that are consumed in a web browser. It may mean that you're doing work for how something is being presented a user, which would usually be referred to as "front-end" work, and sometimes you may be working on the server, taking requests and interacting with databases. Either way, you're likely to be obsessing about consistency and performance for your applications across platforms. The last and potentially most important part of the job, is being able to learn constantly as new libraries, frameworks, and platforms are being released. 

Sam Besozzi, Consultant at Praecipio

How would you describe your job to your grandpa? My grandpa is an Aerospace Engineer who fixes computers in his retirement, so I'd give him the same description I give to colleagues. If I'm talking to my grandma, though, I'd tell her every company has a product or service to deliver, which, if delivered more efficiently and with higher quality, will bring in more profit. I work with companies to set up tools that will help them do that. It's just that the tools I work with are on the computer!
How would you describe your job to a coworker? I work with clients to understand their business processes, improve workflow, and configure software from the Atlassian toolset to facilitate collaboration and work management. I also design and deliver trainings to help with adoption and understanding of our newly configured tools. I dabble in sales and marketing, too, because hey — what's the point of being in a startup if you don't work 4 jobs?

Kade Schemahorn, User Experience Designer at Handsome

How would you describe your job to your grandpa? Grandpa, you know that computers can do just about anything these days, right? Well, it can actually be pretty difficult to make computers act the way you want them to. It’s even harder to turn them into things you really love and want to interact with. I figure out how to turn technology into things people need and enjoy.
How would you describe your job to a coworker? I design products and services with a focus on digital technology. Through research, our team develops empathy for users, allowing us to understand what is appropriate to build in order to have the desired impact. Through user testing and multiple rounds of iteration, we refine the usability of our designs. In the end, we aim to produce products and services that fit into the lives of our clients’ customers.
Some responses were edited for length or clarity. 
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