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!
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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