Separate Internal Job Titles from External Titles

I recently met a lead whose business card read “Lead Phoenix Developer.”  I asked what that meant, and he explained that he was a technical lead for an project code-named Phoenix. His business card could have read “Lead Developer” or “Technical Lead” and made much more sense.

This almost happened to me today. I’m the conference chair (the program manager for the whole conference) for Agile 2009 (in Chicago, August 2009). Internally, I think that position is called “program director”–but I’m not selecting any part of the actual conference. The program piece is that the position is like a program manager position. I asked to be called the conference chair instead. That’s what I’ll be calling myself!

If you have internal names for jobs, that’s fine. Keep the internal and external names separate.

5 Replies to “Separate Internal Job Titles from External Titles”

  1. I’m not sure I agree with that. Far better to use industry-standard terminology for comparable jobs than try to distinguish your company with different titles just for the sake of being different.

  2. Putting an internal product name on a business card is just stupid. Part of the point of project names is to avoid blabbing your plans to the universe. “Hi, I’m the Phoenix projecgt lead and I’m looking for set top box developers.” Duh.

    Avoiding internal jargon is a good idea, or better, use the appropriate jargon for the audience. Jargon is an efficient shorthand, but only within the community that has a common understanding. I used “set top box” above, but inside Netflix, we say “STB”. And yes, our STB plans are public now, see the Roku box and Monday’s Xbox announcement.

    Another example, I had a friend with two business cards. For the US, it was “Donn Terry, PhD” and for Japan, it was “Donn Terry, Project Manager”. Each one matched the local status systems. Also, in Japanese, a speaker needs to know their relative status in order to say anything, because the grammar changes depending on that.

  3. Pingback: HR World » Blog Archive » Friday Links: Titles That Make Sense
  4. I agree, and this is especially relevant when posting your jobs to the web. Whether you use a job board or just have job postings on your web site, using industry-standard terms will improve your SEO.

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