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Programmers: Introverts or Extroverts?

"The icon of the shy geeky computer programmer is a mainstay of the technology landscape. But is it true?"

That's how a recent e-mail to me from Evans Data Corp. started out. At a previous company, as part of a class, I took a Myers-Briggs test that indicated I was introverted. And that my personality type (ISTP, one of 16 possible categories) tended to like motorcycles. I didn't need a standardized test to tell me either of those things, but I found it interesting.

I found the e-mail interesting, too. It said: "We asked over 400 software developers to rate themselves on a scale measuring introverted vs. extroverted. Only 2 percent thought they were completely introverted. So where do you think the other 98 percent saw themselves?"

Right off the bat, I thought, most of them probably thought themselves either partly introverted or extroverted. Duh. (Is there even such a thing as being "completely introverted?") But I was curious, so I asked for more information. Turns out this introvert/extrovert question was just a tiny part of a report to help companies market to developers. And they even provided me with a nice, customized quote to buy the report.

I'll have to pass on that, thanks, but the question still intrigued me. I know that good programmers tend to be good at math, so I've got a big strike against me for ever getting good. But what about being introverted? Does that help?

I would bet that most programmers are introverted. And, unfortunately, introversion comes with some negative baggage. Extroverts run things. They're the managers and supervisors. They're the ones you want to hang out with.

But I learned in the Myers-Briggs class that being introverted doesn't necessarily mean bad things, like being a weird loner who doesn't want to interact with people. From my understanding of that class, it has more to do with how people tend to recharge their batteries. Extroverts like being at parties and social occasions and can do it all day and come away refreshed. Introverts can socialize, but it leaves them tired. To recharge, they like to be alone for a while. Maybe reading a book or writing code. And being introverted doesn't mean you won't be a successful manager or supervisor. The class instructor said that former president Jimmy Carter is an introvert.

Well, I can't spring for report right now (I won't tell you the cost), but I'll do the next best thing: conduct my own survey. Are you introverted or extroverted? How do you see programmers in general? Does one or the other help or hinder good programming? Comment here or drop me a line. And I won't charge you.

Posted by David Ramel on 02/07/2013 at 1:15 PM

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Reader Comments:

Wed, Feb 20, 2013 Lindsay Boise, ID

I feel like I'm more extroverted. I love social gatherings, meeting new people and getting to know others better. Although it can be exhausting sharing my energy with people, I always learn and grow from social experiences - even if I only learn what NOT to do! On the other hand, there are days when curling up with a good book or fighting with some challenging code is the only thing I want to do. Maybe I fit nicely right in the middle of this intro/extro thing!

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 Michelle Marcus St. Louis, MO

As an introvert, I think it helps with being comfortable sitting behind a computer all day long. People and meetings are distractions from our work!

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 Rey Phoenix, AZ

Yup, introverted and a motorcycle rider (had 11 bikes 'til the BK & FC). Small gatherings OK; large ones/parties - hate the small talk. Do NOT do Facebook/Twitter. Wife is the extrovert. I also would like to see a more formal survey.

Tue, Feb 12, 2013 Fred

introvert and proud! I do great in small groups; for instance when I play poker I can be very talkative (when playing with guys I know). But I hate going to parties; despise small talk; and I've always thought that facebook/twitter is primarily for insecure folks who love to passively scream - "hey everyone look at me".

Tue, Feb 12, 2013

I think programming is a form of mental illness.

Tue, Feb 12, 2013 RFGentry Topeka, KS

I lean toward being an introvert. My wife is an extrovert. Do opposites attract? One on one communication is cool to me but large crowds of strangers are stressful. I also have trouble understanding why people would blab all their personal business to the world through social media. You should set up a real survey and let people fill it out here on visualstudiomagazine. It would be fun to read the results.

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