There’s a lot of talk about the differences between introverts vs. extroverts—and it is important to understand how personality types impact our work styles, lives, and happiness.
For instance, where one person might thrive in an open-office plan, another might long for the personal space of a cubicle. Workplaces that consider the needs of their individual employees will be repaid in productivity and loyalty.
But do you know one similarity between introverts and extroverts? They can both succeed in the tech industry! It all boils down to knowing yourself, extending understanding to others, and being willing to learn new soft skills or preparation techniques when necessary.
In this episode, Jess Lee, founder of Dev.to, joins me to talk about introversion and extroversion in tech, what kinds of tech roles are suited to each personality type, how to navigate the workplace as an introvert, and more. As a lifelong introvert herself, Jess explains how it has impacted her personally and professionally and shares the wisdom she’s gained along the way.
Listen to the episode below!
This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos.
Laurence Bradford 0:08
Hi and welcome to the Learn to Code With Me podcast. Today we'll be talking about introversion in tech. But first, a quick word from our sponsors.
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Laurence Bradford 0:57
In this episode, I talk with Jess Lee. Jess is a co-founder of the Dev Community, which is a place for programmers to connect and share knowledge. She leads day to day operations there and commits to the code base every single day. We chat about what it's like working in tech as an introverted person. We also just talk about life as an introvert in general outside of tech, Jess, who does consider herself an introvert shares how she overcame her fear of public speaking, how she taught herself to be good at networking, and much more. I hope you enjoy the interview.
Laurence Bradford 1:34
Hey, Jess, thanks so much for coming on the show.
Jess Lee 1:36
Thanks for having me.
Laurence Bradford 1:37
I'm really excited to chat with you today. We've known each other for a while now. And of course, you're a co founder of Dev. And I'm really excited that you've all people are going to talk about this topic of introversion versus extraversion in tech. I feel like when I was doing research before this interview, there's all this different information online. I'm really excited to talk about it. But before we dive into all that Can you tell us what your role is like at dev? What is your day to day look like? What are some of your responsibilities and all that?
Jess Lee 2:07
Sure, as a founder, you're basically doing a million things, right? There isn't an aspect of the business that you're not concerned with. But generally, I lean into what aspect of the business needs you most at the time. So over the summer, we're fundraising and so like leaned into that a lot more. But now that we've closed around, I am back to coding. And that is probably like, the primary thing that I do at dev is I'm a developer, and then everything else falls under more of a management category, right, like hiring process, making sure the team is committed to communicating effectively, and, you know, down to just making sure everybody has their benefits and that that's not going to stop anytime soon.
Laurence Bradford 2:48
Right. How big is the team like how many people are working in your office?
Jess Lee 2:53
So right now we are six full time team members, but then we have some folks doing some Out contract and work with us as well.
Laurence Bradford 3:01
Nice. And as a side note for listeners, we had Ben Halpern on as a guest. We'll definitely link to his interview in the show notes, because I know he talks a lot about starting Dev. But just for quick context, like for listeners, how long have you been working there?
Jess Lee 3:18
So we've been working on that full time since January 2017. But Ben and I were working on it as a passion project side hustle. About eight months before that, so that was, that was a really interesting and fun time where we both had full time jobs and in our weekends and nights where we're trying to build this community.
Laurence Bradford 3:38
Yeah, I can imagine it was like, absolutely insane work hours. Is your work life balance better now, or is it still pretty insane?
Jess Lee 3:45
It's definitely so much better. Because, you know, like, what I'm doing something that I really care about and to, we really respect work life balance. It's something that we really encourage for everyone on our team and Even in our, like employee handbook, it's like, we don't believe in button seats and drum. And for us that means, you know, like, don't just like sit in your chair until a certain time because your manager hasn't left yet. And yeah, we just really encourage people to be flexible with their hours and do what they need to do so that they can, you know, be really focused and so that they're like focus when they're working on sort of, if they want to be somewhere else, and they should be somewhere else.
Laurence Bradford 4:27
Yeah, yeah, that's great. And I like totally relate to working full time and doing what everyone call it side, hustle side project is always words for it, but it's almost like having two jobs. And it can be Yeah, it can be so much. And yeah, I'm really happy that you have better, you know, balance in your life. Now I do as well than I did like, you know, a year ago. So I'm glad that we're both moving in the right direction. But anyway, I want to get into where you started off because you weren't always intact, and I was creeping on your LinkedIn earlier and it looks like you started out in March. Getting. Can you talk a bit about that?
Jess Lee 5:02
Yeah. So in college, I was actually a music major. Well, I DIY had my own degree. It was heavily in music performance, and then like sprinkles of business stuff. And I had the intention of working in the music industry after I graduated. And that's what I did. And yeah, like I don't need, I was able to find a marketing role. So I basically was working in the marketing marketing industry for a few years. And it's funny that we're talking about introversion extroversion, because marketers, I think, are stereotyped as extroverts. And in the environment that I was working in that was extremely true. And so it was difficult for me identify as an introvert to really fit in there. But I ultimately on the tag because I was tired of my marketing job. And when I got tired of it, I ended up working as a as like a temp employee and I got placed at a startup. And when I was there, I realized How just how valued engineers were and also just like how rich the tech industry is, I don't think I, I think unless you're like it's it's truly a bubble and I got a glimpse of it and I was fascinated. So I made friends with some of the engineers that helped that we were all introverts. And I decided to join a boot camp because I learned best through classroom setting. But in terms of, you know, like I've always had a general interest in tech I, for forever can remember tweaking like HTML and CSS on my like live journal is amazing. I was and then eventually, that evolved into like creating my friends bands websites on like Squarespace. So I've sort of always peripherally been attacked, but I never really considered it considered a viable career path until I ended up hating my marketing job. temping and, you know, experiencing it at a start up.
Laurence Bradford 6:58
So I feel like you already kind of answered this, but I was going to ask if you consider yourself to be introvert or an extrovert, it sounds like you consider yourself to be an introvert. Right?
Jess Lee 7:06
I do consider myself to be an introvert, but other people have told me that I'm the most extroverted introvert that they've ever met so..
Laurence Bradford 7:16
Yeah, I mean, cuz I was, I was going to add an anyone who's familiar with Jess and Dev, Jess is you're kind of like one of the faces of the company. I mean, of course, you're the co founder, but you're really active in the community, whether it's writing whether it's videos, you're active on social media, I remember seeing you several months back doing like an Instagram takeover of another account, which is like not horrifying, but like i i finally been posting more on Instagram and none of my stuff is like a live video like or any video not even anybody I just I don't know what it is mean video. I just don't like the video. And I was just like blown away. I was like, wow, like Jess is out there taking over Instagrams live live whatever videoing your Whole day like, that's so impressive, but yeah.
Jess Lee 8:02
I will say that that was probably the first time I ever clicked the button on my camera that turned it into selfie mode. It was like just it was like so dreadful for me. But I'm really like so yeah, introvert at heart, but I'm really all about picking up the skills that extroverts have. And I really think that's just what it is like. People have different sets of skills and they're all attainable like an extrovert can pick up the skills of more introverted qualities, an introvert can pick up the fields of more extroverted qualities, they just might not be the most comfortable in those situations. And I, you know, like I was painfully shy as a child like, I'm talking like, no friend, as a kid, especially because I didn't speak English. So that really added to it. And I eventually just like learned, like little things like I was actually telling my fiance the other day that we were about to go into a social situation that we're both kind of not psyched about and what I used to do. Like in high school, I would take an index card and write down questions for people and then like review it. And it slipped in my pocket because of like awkward silences. And I didn't know how to deal with those. I wanted to have content in my back pocket so that I could carry a conversation or moments when I felt like I was being too awkward. I could say like, say something funny.
Laurence Bradford 9:22
Can you talk a bit more about that, like how you're kind of an introvert extrovert and how it's impacted your professional life.
Jess Lee 9:30
It's made networking really difficult. And as a founder, one of the things you want to be doing all time is not working and telling people about about what you're doing. So I have met a lot of people from the internet and it's great to have internet friends because you have this like kinship already. So when you meet in person, it's it's far less difficult. And there have been times at different networking events where I'll meet somebody that I know from from the internet and will be able to have a great day. conversation, but then, like a new person comes to join the group. And everyone's like, oh, what do you do? What do you do? And for some reason, somebody always answers for me, and I always kind of dread. I'm like, oh, like, you know, I'm running this developer community, you know, we're a platform for devs to support one another. But then somebody else was like, No, you don't understand like, this is what death is. And it's always amazing because they just do the work for me.
Laurence Bradford 10:24
You mentioned how you were focusing a lot on like, a fundraising over the summer. Can you talk about that at all? Like just like, what kind of was involved in like, how you used your extrovert skills are learned extrovert skills to do that? Because I imagine that's like really demanding on someone who identifies as in as an introvert.
Jess Lee 10:44
Yeah. That was really stressful for me in particular, because I'm not one to, you know, like, I don't like and when eyes are on you, and that's exactly what's happening in those meetings. Um, but you just after you get through a few like, if you So if you're listening and you're fundraising, my advice to you is to create a list of people that have investors or firms that an order of your priority, and then like have like your favorites or whatever, and then take the ones who care the least about and have those meetings first. Because that's when you'll get through all those stumbling blocks when you're like, oh, like, this is my freeze. This is when I get really uncomfortable. This is the question I don't love when they asked me because maybe my numbers aren't as great as they should be. But that doesn't mean that like, you know, my company is not going to be successful, like, learn where you are really uncomfortable, and then go to people that you really, really want. And then you know, if they, if they cut you a check, then you're great. And then if they don't then go to the people that you're cool with, but definitely get, you know, get your practice rounds in first.
Laurence Bradford 11:57
Yeah, that makes sense. Like with anything practice makes perfect. Perfect and I feel like that could also be applied to just like giving talks like start small in front of a smaller audience and kind of, you know, work your way up. You know what, it's really interesting because you were saying how you were very shy as a kid and you've learned these skills that are like extroverted, I'm using air quotes, extroverted skills, and they can be taught, which I totally agree with, I think like anything, anything can be learned, whether that's to be, you know, public speaking, or to use selfie mode on your camera and live stream all day. But when I was a kid, I was really extroverted. And I almost became more introverted as an adult. And there's like one moment or one thing that really changed that and it was when I was I lived in Thailand for nine months and that entire time I was living alone. And that was my first time ever living alone, not only living alone, I was well the only Western person in the city I was in the only like, native English speaker and I was miserable for like six weeks, but then After that, I almost became into more introverted because of the experience. And then I like to live alone. And I like preferred to live alone and have my alone time. And I don't know it was. It's just really interesting thing like how like four different people how you can develop differently? Because I mean, I totally believe you when you say you're one of the most awkward shy people in class, but now it's like, I don't see you that way at all. But you you taught yourself and you develop these skills. So like, what kind of things did you do to develop these extroverted skills.
Jess Lee 13:27
It was accepting the fact that you're going to be uncomfortable. Every time I give a talk, I just, you know, my anxiety spikes because I don't really love having eyes on me, but I recognize that it just makes me more well rounded. And I don't know, that's something I've always wanted to be, I think from growing up. I've always, you know, like, if it's just like from your college application, you're like, oh, like, like, you want to be well rounded. And I think that's, like, pretty ingrained. So like challenging myself and just leaning into the discomfort, but you know, you're still on comfortable. But you know, when you come out of it, you feel really good. And you can feel a sense of like pride and accomplishment.
Laurence Bradford 14:06
So how often are you speaking? So like in front of a crowd, like we're all eyes are on you? And how often are you going to these different kinds of networking events?
Jess Lee 14:16
So probably once a quarter is an average, I gave my first workshop this summer, which was really cool. It's so different from giving a talk and is a lot easier in many ways. Because it isn't eyes on you all the time. It's really about the people in the room trying to learn something. And that's not something I've fully realized until I was up there. Because when you're prepping for it, you're like, Okay, like everyone turn around, like show your idea. And that's just like a line note, but then you realize that that takes up the bulk of the time, which is awesome.
Laurence Bradford 14:49
Yeah, I think that's really good advice, like focusing on like teaching and the value that you're bringing the audience and doing a workshop. Yeah, I can imagine like if they especially they're on their computers, and kind of Falling along. It's not like it's watching a TED talk sort of thing there. It's more of a classroom environment. Yeah. Awesome. And on that note, I'm also curious when you prepare for a talk, or even this kind of fundraising like an important meeting, do you have any, like preparation tips or anything you can share with people.
Jess Lee 15:21
So I personally will have all the slides out and then I'll have notes under each slide. And then I will practice in front of people. If I work up the courage or sometimes I'm just practicing with posted on like different pillow cushions and trying to like make eye contact. So I know, like I have problems projecting and I have problems making good eye contact. So aside from like, understanding my material, like that's what I work on, but really, if you if you really want to figure out what you need to work on, you just have to like take a camera out and record yourself and then and then assess from there and it'll be very, very telling.
Laurence Bradford 15:58
Oh, my goodness, yeah, that's like Yeah recording yourself and who Yeah, so have you like done that and had anyone else kind of give feedback like, like shown the video to I don't know, like a friend or colleague or someone who you think does really well at public speaking and was like, hey, like, could you give me any tips?
Jess Lee 16:18
Yeah, so I actually took like I said, I try to put myself in challenging and uncomfortable situations. So I've actually taken a public speaking class where they where they do that and you're in a small classroom with like six other people who ideally feel the same way as you but for some reason every class I've gone to there's there's just been people who are just like extremely extroverted and like really good at this and like, why are you in the class, but they will put the camera right in front of you and then they will somebody will like walk out of the room with you like tell you like what you're doing and what you need to work on.
Laurence Bradford 16:49
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Laurence Bradford 16:56
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Laurence Bradford 19:09
Did you take that class recently?
Jess Lee 19:11
I yeah, I've I've taken two of them. But once a year I try and like freshen up.
Laurence Bradford 19:17
That's not that's like one of those things that I always feel like I should do I've thought about doing and then I kind of chickened out another thing that I've toyed with doing, like a stand up comedy class, because I feel like that would i would imagine public speaking I know it's a bit different but it's like if people you know laughing at your jokes or not is like pretty hardcore. And there's actually one in New York a stand up comedy class that's only like $300 or something for several weeks I don't know how much the you know, these other courses cost but I thought that was like really reasonable for this Yeah, comedy.
Jess Lee 19:53
That would be a crazy challenge. I feel like a good in between the stand up comedy would probably be Like an improv class, because I feel like an improv you could, you're still in front of people, but you can do like weirder things and just like get used to that audience feeling.
Laurence Bradford 20:09
And yeah, and and you're also like not alone, like a fresh damn comedy, it's just you on the stage because that's how they act, because that's how they ended their class. Like at the end, that part of the graduation is you do like an open mic night. And you're like, Yeah, I know, which is horrifying, horrifying. But the one thing that I think about that, so interesting, people perceive things is, to me doing that would be less scary because the people in the audience like I wouldn't really know or they wouldn't know me because it just be like, kind of random people in New York City and other people that are friends and family of the other graduates of the class. Whereas if you're giving a talk, like, you know, a tech talk or something at a conference, it's a year round your peers, you're around people who know you just feel
Jess Lee 20:55
So much higher stake.
Laurence Bradford 20:56
Yes, yes. I think that's for me. I need somebody to like, get over And move fast. But for some reason that just like stresses me out more than being in front of like tons of strangers and telling jokes because, yeah, it's like, yeah, again, like it's much lower stakes.
Jess Lee 21:12
Yeah, it's interesting because I actually, I'm more comfortable giving a talk to strangers than I would be asking Ben or Peter to like, watch me give a talk. If that if that makes sense. Like So Ben and Peter are my are the two found the two other founders of dev? And if I'm giving a talk about that, I feel more self conscious about them than watching me because I'm like, oh, like, is this what they would have said? And? And yeah, I don't know. It's like, it's funny how that works.
Laurence Bradford 21:39
Yeah, no, no, that yeah, that definitely makes sense. Like, I had to give a talk at or I didn't have to act like I was forced to, but I, I gave one like, Well, a few actually, where I was working previously, and it was good. I mean, they weren't they actually were all okay, but I also felt like, I don't know. It's just so it's so different. went around like people you know, people you work closely with, like versus strangers when you do feel like you don't have, you know, I don't like you don't know them I have any personal connection to them. So it's not like you really have to see them. Yeah, especially if you're like in New York City, such a big city, we, you know, are we both live? It's like, will I ever see these people again? You know, probably not. But But yeah, so you so you said that you do the conferences like what's like the biggest crowd you ever spoke in front of?
Jess Lee 22:26
Probably about 50 people, not even a huge crowd. But, um, but yeah, that was like the first talk I gave actually. And then they've all become smaller since just like meetups or a spoke at writes the code one here and I thought that I was on like a beginner track, which would be your audience, but then I ended up being on the, like, intermediate advanced track, and that became like a smaller audience, but I felt like, you know, like stakes were higher in a sense, because it was a much more technical crowd. So I don't think audience size really has a huge impact on on how I feel. It's more About a people that will be there like you were describing.
Laurence Bradford 23:04
Yeah, yeah, I can I can imagine oh my gosh, it talking in front of like a more intermediate track then you thought that could be a little? I don't know getting that could be more stressful rather than a big a big group of of beginners. Okay yeah so when I was researching this beforehand there is all different content online and the consensus seems to be that software engineering and it jobs are better for people who are shy or introverted. But then I also found other articles are like Korra posts, where they were people talking about how they were introverted in a tech job and they didn't feel like they belonged. What do you think about this? Like, do you think that tech can be good for introverted and extroverted people and also when I say that I feel so silly because tech is just like such a big umbrella. There's so many jobs within tech, but let's just focus first on like the software engineering jobs like the pert not like software sales or something that is a bit more On like interfacing with customers or something?
Jess Lee 24:02
Sure, um, I don't think that being an introvert or extrovert really matters. Well, if you're trying to be a software engineer, but I think the I think the stereotype of engineers being all introverted comes from the fact that when you're beginning to learn how to code, it's a very solo endeavor. So there are very many, like there are lots of phases of being a software engineer, engineer, when you're learning a new concept. You're even if you're in a classroom setting, surrounded by peers, when you're doing like a deep learning and trying to hack on a project on your own, like it's very much so done in solitude, but then it evolves right like once you sort of learned that then you may be like dabble in pair programming, and that's a lot more collaborative. But ultimately, software engineering is like super, super collaborative, like you need lots of people to make up product work.
Jess Lee 25:00
So I think it's easier for introverts maybe to get into engineering because the start of it is you're very, you know, you're, it's just you and your computer. But then as you evolve you, you want to pick up all those other skills to make you a good communicator. Yeah, I mean, you know, in general, it's a solo practice that during the learning phase, and it, it quickly evolves to being collaborative, and that's when a lot of the extrovert skills need to kick in. So really, again, going back to like the idea of being well rounded, it's like, you can be an introvert, but, you know, it'll probably serve you well. If you pick up some of those extrovert skills and, and vice versa, like you. As an extrovert. You might want to be able to spend some time going really deep, and people, you know, there's different like you can play to your strengths. So like, as an introvert, one of the ways you can learn is through publishing.
Jess Lee 25:55
And that can be how your primary way of sharing information and connecting with the rest of the community Whereas for an extrovert, you might not enjoy sitting alone writing articles, but you can instead, you know, learn by teaching, or mentoring or giving talks and conferences, which might be a lot more in your element. So, industry really need both parties. Because if we're just gonna have introverts, you're just gonna have silence in a room of extroverts. It's just gonna be noise.
Laurence Bradford 26:24
Yeah, for sure. So looking at the different areas of tech, we just, you know, we're talking a bit about software engineering. Are there any job roles or functions that are more conducive to extroverts?
Jess Lee 26:38
The first thing that pops to mind is this role, and I think it's newer, or maybe it was just new to me when I entered the industry, but developer advocates or developer evangelists, those roles I really find are great for extroverts, because their primary job is kind of just talking about about a product or service and some develop evangelists like are on the road going to conferences like 200 days out of the year. And they talk about code for living. And I think that's like a perfect job for an extrovert.
Laurence Bradford 27:09
Yeah. What also comes to my mind is anything with like I said this a bit ago, but interfacing with customers. So like software sales, I know that, well, some people sign software do get quite technical, depending on what they're selling. And also, fun fact, software, people who do software sales actually make the most money or have the highest earning potential out of any tech career. I wrote an article about this company years back. Yeah, let's because some of the bonuses, they'll give out really big tech companies like Oracle, and these, like b2b software companies, like someone just in bonuses alone can make like 100 200,000 and that's just bonuses, including Yeah, it's it's pretty wild. But then again, it's like, it's really demanding. Yeah, but it's really demanding traveling a lot really high pressure. It's one of those things right. If you don't meet your targets, you'll get fired so..
Jess Lee 27:59
Laurence Bradford 27:59
It's just Definitely not definitely not for everyone. But yeah, it can be very lucrative if you're good at sales and if you're somewhat technical and you can go to like b2b, you know, conference rooms with like people, yeah, a big, you know, cable companies or whatever and sell them your product. I also feel like, oh, people that are kind of in like product management and project management, not that you couldn't be introverted onto that, of course you can, but that's maybe more, you know, kind of organizing, communicating. But then, you know, after I say that, I feel like that side of the brain of like managing projects, you could also be really fulfilled by someone who, who is more introverted, because, and I'm sure people listening have heard there are TED Talks, and there's all this research about how introverts are actually better leaders and can do certain things and to fulfill certain roles that were traditionally extroverted like.
Jess Lee 28:54
Totally, that's actually what I was going to say was that I feel like there's a misconception that leaders need to be extroverts. And I think that's just the way that like media plays into things. But introverts can actually be really assertive. And because of their, you know, generally more quiet demeanor, it really exudes more of a common confidence, like extroverts might not be able to achieve.
Laurence Bradford 29:17
Yeah, so I, so I was reading this book that is really interesting. Zahra keep talking about sales. It was a book that is called to sell as human I have to get the exact title but it's by God, I would google it right now. But whenever I google something during an interview, the internet cuts out and not going to but it's it's really good book. It's just talks about how like basically, everyone nowadays has to sell in one way or another whether you're selling to like your coworkers trying to get an idea that they'll you know, work on or actually being a salesperson. Anyway, a university did research on like who, who actually is like the most effective salesperson, introverts or extroverts and they found it and they rated kind of people on a scale of one to 10 one being super, super introverted 10 being super, super extroverted. And they found that the people with the best sales performance I this was like a cross like tons of companies, thousands of people, they fell in the like four to six range. I'm just kind of, you know, remembering on top of my head it was something like that, but basically they were kind of in the middle so they were not starkly in one direction. But they also weren't super extroverted, actually extroverted people would get lower numbers and a lot of introverted people because sometimes maybe they could come off as abrasive or they couldn't like they were just show energetic or something they couldn't like read the room and listen, listening. That was the big one listening instruments can be better at listening. Anyway. So that I think was like that definitely really surprised me because you have this association of like, oh, anyone who's good at public speaking or selling or whatever, promoting themselves talking about themselves, they're going to be extroverted. But turns out the more effective when you actually look at the numbers were people that were more in the middle or even a little more introverted.
Jess Lee 30:58
Right. Yeah, I mean, It goes back to that whole well rounded thing. I'm curious what environment those salespeople were in. Mostly
Laurence Bradford 31:08
they were like hard. I mean they were so they were looking at people are probably doing like financial sales, software sales. I think it was across industries, but it was definitely like, sales jobs. Yeah.
Jess Lee 31:18
Something that I read an article recently but was referencing Susan Kane's book the power of introverts, which I've read but like i don't i article is much more fresh, but they reference that whether or not you're an introvert or an extrovert depends on how your body responds to different stimulus stimuli. And when, if you are an introvert and you're in the wrong environment, like a noisy environment, you'll tend to become more overwhelmed and perform poorly. But if you're an extrovert and you're like in a quiet room, the same thing will happen to you like you'll also feel overwhelmed and perform poorly. So a lot of it is also environmental. Obviously, this was a huge study, but it'd be interesting to also know Like, oh, like were they, you know, were they in their proper environments for them to to excel?
Laurence Bradford 32:06
Oh, that is really interesting. So what was the name of that book again? The power of introverts, okay, I've never read it. But I've heard of that. I've definitely heard people like talk about that book in multiple occasions. So we'll make sure to link to it in the shownotes. Awesome. So if there's people listening to the show right now, who maybe think they're not a good fit for tech, because they don't belong, whether they're introverted extroverted, whatever else it could be, what advice like do you have for them?
Jess Lee 32:35
I think it's important to know that both extroverts and introverts play a really big role in in making things work. So it's funny I was in a, a meeting once where it was clear that everyone's introvert so like very quiet, but then like one extroverted person came in and they like really lit up the room and they were able they had those skills to like, get the introverts talking and you know that like it's so important to have that balance.
Laurence Bradford 33:02
Awesome. Anyway, just Is there any parting advice you would like to leave people with when it comes to just like being introverted and navigating the workplace and all that?
Jess Lee 33:13
Yeah, I will try and be communicative with your team about your communication preferences, especially if you're an introvert, I feel like a lot of like, companies and startups cater towards extrovert ideals. So thinking like open layout space, or where there's like just lots of noise and lots of small talk. And if that's not up your alley, try and bring that up. I just learned that square runs silent meetings, which is a meeting where people get together and they sit in silence for 30 minutes, reviewing like an agenda or topic of discussion and they like are all in a Google Sheet, leaving different comments on their opinions. And then afterwards, somebody will just like pipe up and start talking about, about what they're discussing that they've already been Discussing for the last 30 minutes. And it really gives an opportunity for everyone's voice to be heard. And so if you're an introvert, and you'd feel like it's harder for you to speak up at a meeting, this is something worth introducing.
Jess Lee 34:13
Because, yeah, because it might be a lot easier for you to write things down. But then the extroverts also have the opportunity to speak up after you've gotten your thoughts in. And that's actually something that we do for our hiring process dev is after we review a resume or run an interview, we don't talk to each other, and we write our notes down, because we want to reduce bias. And most importantly, we don't want the loudest person in the room to to sway anyone else's opinions. So that'd be my advice for introverts. Like if you're an introvert, and you just know it and you're not happy, like being an extrovert culture, then try and find ways where you can really help yourself and the rest of the team.
Laurence Bradford 34:56
Awesome. Thank you for that advice. I really liked the one with the hiring. That's That's a good idea because I've definitely been in situations where Yes, one person has a really loud opinion or strong opinion. And they're very good communicate. Yeah, they can kind of sway other people.
Jess Lee 35:09
Like, oh, maybe Maybe I was wrong. Yeah. And yeah, that happens all the time. Also, on the two, I have to, there's a woman named Jen, and she's been writing the series, and it's called the introverts guide. And so she has articles like the introverts guide to professional development, the introverts guide to tech conferences, introverts guide to Office networking, and my favorite introverts guide to small talk. And so if you're introvert, that's super helpful, and I'm sorry if I don't have that many resources for extroverts, because I just don't truly identify as one.
Laurence Bradford 35:42
It's all good. We'll definitely make sure to link to that series in the show notes so people can find it. That sounds really cool. I want to check it out also. So thank you so much for coming on. Where can people find you online?
Jess Lee 35:54
So you can find me on dev.to/Jess, or you can find me on Twitter as JessLeeNYC.
Laurence Bradford 35:59
Awesome. Thanks again for coming on.
Jess Lee 36:01
Thank you so much for having me.
Laurence Bradford 36:09
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Careers for Introverts and Extroverts in Tech
Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, succeeding in tech starts with playing to your strengths and choosing the right type of role for your personality.
If you’re an extrovert, you might be put off by the lingering stereotype of tech careers like software development being for jobs where you work alone. Jess wants to set the record straight on that: “I think the stereotype comes from the fact that when you’re beginning to learn how to code, it’s a very solo endeavor. You’re doing that deep learning and trying to hack out a project on your own. But ultimately, software engineering is super collaborative, because you need a lot of people to make a product work.”
Because of this, extroverts may want to gravitate towards heavily team-based roles. “Another newer role that’s great for extroverts is developer advocates,” Jess says. “Their primary job is talking about a product or service. Some developer evangelists are on the road, going to conferences, at least like 200 days out of the year, and they talk about code for a living. I think that’s a perfect job for an extrovert.”
Of course, tech is still one of the best careers for introverts due to the simple fact that introverts are good at teaching themselves deep tech skills. “It’s easier for introverts to get into engineering because at the start, it’s just you and your computer.” Therefore, you’ll probably be working with at least a few fellow introverts!
Part of whether introverts thrive at a company is a well-considered environment. “I read that whether or not you’re an introvert or an extrovert depends on how your body responds to different stimulus/stimuli. If you are an introvert and you’re in the wrong environment, like a noisy environment, you’ll tend to become more overwhelmed and perform poorly. But if you’re an extrovert, and you’re in a quiet room, the same thing will happen to you. So a lot of it is also environmental.”
Meanwhile, research also shows that introverts tend to make great leaders. “I feel like there’s a misconception that leaders need to be extroverts,” Jess says. “But introverts can actually be really assertive, and because of their generally more quiet demeanor, it exudes more of a confidence that like extroverts might not be able to achieve.”
How you learn and contribute to the tech community can differ as well. “As an introvert, one of the ways you can learn is through publishing,” Jess says. “And that can be your primary way of sharing information and connecting with the rest of the community. Whereas for an extrovert, you might not enjoy sitting alone writing articles, but you can instead learn by teaching or mentoring or giving talks and conferences, which might be a lot more in your element. So the industry really needs both parties.”
How Introverts and Extroverts Can Learn From Each Other
Balance and growth are important in all areas of life, and Jess emphasizes that neither introverts nor extroverts should neglect personal development of soft skills. Each has things they can learn from the other.
“I’m an introvert at heart,” she says. “But I’m really all about picking up the skills that extroverts have. People have different sets of skills, and they’re all attainable; it just might be uncomfortable. Every time I give a talk, my anxiety spikes because I don’t really love having eyes on me. But I recognize that it just makes me more well-rounded. Lean into the discomfort, and when you come out of it, you feel really good.”
Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert in tech, look for skills in others that you’d like to emulate, and then lean into your own areas of discomfort.
For instance, Jess says, “As you evolve as a software engineer (as an introvert), you want to pick up other skills to make you a good communicator. And vice versa, as an extrovert, you might want to be able to spend some time going really deep (into learning a specific topic or coding on your own).”
Embracing different personality types in tech will make a happier workplace for everyone. That starts with acknowledging that everyone has a valuable role to play. “I think it’s important to know that both extroverts and introverts play a really big role in making things work. I was in a quiet meeting once where it was clear that everyone was an introvert, but then one extroverted person came in and they really lit up the room and had the skills to get the introverts talking. It’s so important to have that balance.”
How to Build Confidence at Work as an Introvert
Since part of working in an office is being around people all day, introverts, in particular, can benefit from handling their needs in an intentional way.
1. Speak up about the workplace environment you need
“I would try and be communicative with your team about your communication preferences, especially if you’re an introvert. I feel like a lot of companies and startups cater towards extrovert ideals. So thinking like open layout space or lots of noise and lots of small talk. If that’s not up your alley, try and bring that up and find ways where you can help yourself and the rest of your team.”
2. Suggest “silent meetings”
As Jess explains, this means “a meeting where people get together and sit in silence for 30 minutes reviewing like an agenda or topic of discussion, and they are all in a Google Sheet, leaving different comments on their opinions. Afterwards, somebody will just pipe up and start talking about what they’re discussing. It’s really an opportunity for everyone’s voice to be heard because it might be a lot easier for introverts to write things down, but then the extroverts also have the opportunity to speak up.”
3. Practice important presentations and note areas to work on
“I know I have problems projecting and I have problems making good eye contact,” Jess says. “So aside from understanding my material, that’s what I work on. But if you really want to figure out what you need to work on, you just have to take a camera out and record yourself. And then assess from there. It’ll be very, very telling.”
4. Take a class
“I try to put myself in challenging and uncomfortable situations. With a public speaking class, you’re in a room where people ideally feel the same way as you, and you have somebody to tell you what you’re doing and what you need to work on.”
5. Use resources for introverts
“On Dev.to, there’s a woman named Jenn who’s been writing a series called The Introvert’s Guide. She has articles like the Introvert’s Guide to Professional Development, the Introvert’s Guide to Tech Conferences, the Introvert’s Guide to Office Networking, and my favorite, the Introvert’s Guide to Small Talk. And so if you’re introverted, that’s super helpful.”
Whether you’re seeking out jobs where you work alone or want to be surrounded by people 24/7, there’s a good chance that there’s something out there for you in the tech industry. By going the extra step to learn how to build confidence at work and hone your soft skills, you’ll be able to relate to both sides of the spectrum.
Links and mentions from the episode:
Disclosure: I’m a proud affiliate for some of the resources mentioned in this section. If you buy a product through my links on this page, I may get a small commission for referring you. Thanks!
- Interview with Ben Halpern
- To Sell Is Human
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
- Introverts Guide To series
- Jess Dev.to profile
- Jess on Twitter @JessLeeNYC
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