In the tech world, acronyms are king. It took me a while to differentiate between the BM (Biz Manager), PM (Product Manager), IM (Implementation Manager), PSM (Product Support Manager), OVM (Operations Vendor Manager), and SME (Subject Matter Expert) for every project. My title, curiously, had no shorthand; I was simply the person from Training. My husband, however, is an SA (Solution Architect) and he works closely with an entirely different cadre of acronymic titles.

It doesn’t help that software companies have a habit of pet- or code-naming their projects, much like their conference rooms, in the manner of suburban housing tracts: Birch, Laurel, Euclid, Tamarind. While someone may be talking about a specific product or a specific release of features, to anyone eavesdropping it’ll sound like they’re going on about a tree. The weirdest tree ever.

So there’s a lot of translation, and what ends up happening is that two language patterns emerge: in office and OoO (Out of Office) and, with any luck, these don’t overlap. Imagine you’re on a date and drop that you’re glad so-and-so “reached out” or that you’re happy to have “touched base.” Oh really, which base?

A lot of tech jargon is super casual and hyper-shortened, but some catchphrases go black tie: “I’m looking for efficiencies/opportunities to align, and I think we could really synergize.” Synergize? There are also some outright violations of the English language (like all those nouns that are currently used as verbs!), but anything goes so long as we all know what we’re collectively talking about.


Hopefully this helps next time you’re rubbing elbows at a community table, or you’re too close for comfort on Muni and it sounds like the people next to you are speaking in all caps.

Any tech jargon we missed or buzzwords flying around your office? Phrases you hate yourself for saying out loud? Please let us know in the comments section.



As in: Let’s talk about the RCA (root cause analysis) of the outage so that we can speed up the RTO (return to operation, or recovery time objective) and improve your TLA.

Not a reference to the acceptable amount of beer left in a can. It stands for Three-Letter Acronym, and when there’s an acronym for acronyms we’ve perhaps taken things too far. TLA can be used in reference to itself, or as a stand-in for another acronym, but it’s on you to know which actual TLA to swap in. So meta.


Recurring Revenue. Let’s put it this way: Your MRR (or RMR) is that monthly rent check from your parents. And poker night? Definitely NRR.

RR is the stable, portion of an organization’s revenue.

Reaching Out

Such a creeper phrase. Even Nev is dropping this one on Catfish: The TV Show. (e.g., Let’s reach out to Felicia to see if she wants to meet Mike.)

Not to be confused with touching base, reaching out means to contact someone for help or information.

Touching Base

Holla back, yo!

You touch base for an update on a project already in the works.


Action Item

An item in a list of things you are probably not going to do, generally as a take-away from a meeting.


This is where you give your content (spring break photos, philosophical thoughts, comments on articles on sites such as this) to companies and websites for free. It stands for user-generated content and it is valuable. Plus, you’re stimulating the economy. There are people whose entire job is to sift through or respond to reports about content that the collective “we” really wish “you” hadn’t posted.

“Do you have the bandwidth?”

An annoying question as common as cheap beer in Dolores Park. Do I look like I have the available or consumed data communication resources expressed in bits per second? Ah, no. But am I too busy to work on your project? Yes.

“I’ve got a lot on my plate.”

No one ever refers to their plate when it’s empty (as in: I’m spending too much time on Facebook, can I have more work?).


Circling back

As in: Let’s circle back to this later.

A polite and evasive tactic for stopping a conversation. Try it out at the bar when your friend says that The Killers are the new Beatles. What?

Taking it offline

For those who appreciate irony (ahem, you know who you are), taking an in-person discussion offline also means you’ll talk about it later, but with fewer people, and probably over email.

“That’s orthogonal to this issue.”

A super nerdy way to convey irrelevance.


As in: We need to be more planful going forward.

Unbelievably a real word, at least, according to Merriam-Webster (and no one else). It sounds like a mash-up of “mindful” and “planning” but means to be full of plans.


“That’s not on the roadmap.”

Everyone lives according to the roadmap – a timeline for new and improved features, bug fixes, etc. If it’s not on there, it can’t happen. It’s not even possible.

The Key Stakeholders

The people who are actually going to make a project happen. They’re making the decisions, doing the actual work, and their bonuses, or their job, are probably at stake if they eff up.

“Can you whiteboard that?”

A grown-up way to give someone permission to draw on the wall. Literally. Some companies have ditched the actual whiteboard in favor of dry erase marker-friendly paint.

“But how can we monetize that?”

This phrase is the genesis for having to pay $2.99 for the Word-O-Meter in Words with Friends. Your good idea needs a way to earn some bread. Or some RR, if you will.


360 feedback

360 feedback refers to a performance management system designed to give you a clear idea of how you’re really coming across. It means those around you get to give anonymous feedback, and we all know how kind anonymous online commenters are. It might be time to start bringing in the Dynamo donuts on Fridays.


Not to be confused with sharting, sharding means to split a database into multiple, better performing pieces, but is used colloquially more like this: Let’s shard this list; it’s getting too long.


As in: What’s the ETA on that PPT preso? Can I have it by EOD/COB?

The estimated time of arrival for that PowerPoint presentation? You need it by the end of day? No, by close of business? Wait, what time? I don’t have it ATM (at the moment) I haven’t had the bandwidth!

In other words: Awww, shit. Time to bang it out.

“Let’s open the kimono.”

Ummm…yeah. Let’s do that. Let’s open up and get real. We’ll share everything (ew?) and I’ll tell you my secrets if you tell me yours. There should be nothing between us. Except possibly this stupid, outdated, arguably sexist and racist phrase.



Four-letter (!) acronym for Get Current, Stay Current. ’Nuff said.