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Tech speak: top terms in tech

Tech speak is used by thousands of people embedded in the IT industry and at times it can feel like they are speaking an entirely different language.

If you’ve ever watched ‘Silicon Valley’ on Sky Atlantic then you’ll know what we mean –the show could do with subtitles just to get you through.

Who would think, for example, that dogfooding isn’t anything to do with a man’s best friend and a tin of Pedigree Chum? Or that bootstrap isn’t something you use to stop your shoes falling off? Or that a burn rate isn’t what happens when you forget about the pizza you’ve shoved in the oven? Pizza is definitely not part of the soylent diet or the Steve Jobs diet, either.

A career in tech can be highly rewarding. No two days are ever the same in a world that is at the forefront of shaping how we live our lives in the future. New startups are constantly appearing, looking to be the next Facebook, Google or Airbnb. Put simply, it’s an exciting place to launch a career right now.

And you shouldn’t let the thought of having to use phrases like unicorns, hockey stick growth and stealth mode put you off. In fact, tech speak is much easier to learn than Year Eight French, and you won’t have to sing ‘quelle est la date de ton anniversaire?’ either.

Here are some of the current technology buzzwords in tech speak to get you started ahead of a career in the world of IT.



A change in direction or purpose for a business, but one that involves it keeping its roots in its original products so that much of the work that has been previously done isn’t wasted. Facebook has pivoted in recent years away from its original concept as a means to keep people connected to a platform for not only bringing news to people, but also influencing their way of thinking. Isn’t that right, Mr Putin?


Bootstrap is where you fund your own startup out of your own pocket. It’s something to be proud of, bootstrapping your own business and dream. More often than not, it actually means you couldn’t find anybody to invest in it, but don’t let that ruin the glamour of the term.

Hockey stick growth

For a company to grow like a hockey stick. A hockey stick is flat if you lay it on the ground until it reaches a certain point, and then it curves dramatically upwards. The most optimistic of entrepreneurs expect hockey stick growth for their companies in that when they eventually take off, they will really take off. Funnily enough, nobody has coined a phrase for what happens if the hockey stick is turned the other way around and the curve is hugely downwards.


Fail fast

Actually, fail fast could be considered the as-yet-unnamed-upside-down-hockey-stick. It’s a buzzword that highlights the success of failure. Because innovation is rarely a straight line from A to B, there are bound to be some failures along the way. For that reason, failure is seen as a positive in the world of tech as it can help you eventually reach the top of the mountain, as Steve Jobs and Apple are the most famous examples of.

Burn rate

The burn rate is how quickly a startup burns through money. A slow burn rate is good as it means the money coming in isn’t overwhelmed by money going out. A fast burn rate is bad and means that more money needs to be raised fast or else serious trouble is around the corner.

Stealth mode

A buzzword stolen from the military, in tech speak stealth mode means a startup that is in a phase of secrecy so nobody actually knows what they do. The idea behind it is so that a bigger, better funded company cannot come along and take the idea for themselves.



One of the more bizarre tech speak terms, dogfooding means “to eat your own dog food.” Apparently coined by Microsoft’s Paul Maritz at some point in the 1980s, he believed that if a company expected customers to take up its products and services, then that company and its employees should have enough confidence to also use those products and services themselves. Either that, or he just had a really weird taste in food.

Solyent Diet

Speaking of weird tastes in food – the solyent diet. Entrepreneurs in silicon valley have been known to completely forgo food in favour of Solyent, a drink which is a powdered meal replacement. Apparently, it saves time as you don’t have to mess around with such mundane activities as putting things in your mouth and chewing.


Steve Jobs Diet

Less weird but still pretty horrible sounding is the Steve Jobs Diet. The former Apple CEO was famously a man who refused to eat any products from animals and many of his disciples have followed his ways, shunning meat, cheese, milk and the like in favour of fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables.


Don’t let those last two put you off, tech world isn’t just a diet of zero food. There are unicorns as well. Everybody is looking for a unicorn, but you can’t tell if you’ve got an actual unicorn or a donkey until a horn starts to grow. If you manage to create or find a startup for which the magical horn does start to grow, then the rewards are rich and you could be too. And that is what makes tech one of the best industries to get involved in, even if there are plenty of nonsense phrases.