So You're a Programmer, but Should You Be
Submitted by Steve Moyer on Fri, 2006-06-16 13:47.
In my last post, "I went to the dark side and made it back alive", I made a brief reference to Myer's-Brigg's personality typing and the need to understand your strengths and weaknesses. In all honesty, I wouldn't have had a clue with regards to personality types if it wasn't for my wife's expertise in this area. While she specializes in child and youth psychology, she's contributed to a lot of what I understand about myself as well as how I view others. In fact, she'll read this before you will.
The basis of this personality testing is that there are four pairs of traits we each have. You get to pick one (that's wishful thinking) of each pair and that's how you'll tend to behave. This results in sixteen distinct personality types, each of which has a few traits in common with others (say those that share three of the four) and some traits that are particular to just that group. The title of this post refers to programmers, so I'll focus on the traits that make good programmers (or the lack of the traits that cause bad programmers). One other facet of this typology is that two of the traits will tend to group the types. Keirsey calls the four major groupings the "Temperments" and the 16 possible combinations the "Role Variants".
If you haven't taken a personality test yet (yes, regardless of what your friends say, you do have one), there is one available at the Keirsey site as well as either of these two sites:
If you're a programmer, chances are that your temperment is "Rational". Rationals tend to be able to hold large quantities of details in their heads and can visualize problems in complex domains. If you're not a Rational, you either cheated on the test (I did ... we tend to answer the questions the way we WANT to be), or you're really in another group. To continue with the Rationals, there are also four Rational role variants; the Architect, the Mastermind, the Inventor and the Field Marshall. Use the links to see which famous individuals share your role variant as well as those in the other Rational role variants (quiz: Does anyone recognize the first picture on the Field Marshall page).
Why should you care?
In my previous post, I pointed out some of my strengths and weaknesses. Understanding yourself is going to be critical to your success as a uISV ... you need to know what task you're suited for and, more importantly, which tasks you should have someone else do. I'm an "Architect" (curiously enough, my business card says so too), so I find visualizing the frameworks for our software products fairly easy. By the same token, I've given up on management (it's not that I couldn't do it ... I found it tedious and a waste of my time), and know that my partner in a uISV endeavor will be a manager. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Knowing which are which may make the difference between success and failure.
In a larger environment, understanding the personality types is also useful for making hiring decisions. Does your company assess candidates profiles when interviewing? Do the questions you ask during the interview process allow you to properly assess the individual in relation to the role they would fill?
Next time I'll talk about programming ... there's only so much of this personal/professional development a Rational can take.
Have a great weekend!