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We need representatives! (syndicates, agents ...)

bgadrian profile image Adrian B.G. ใƒป2 min read

Think of it, in almost all important moments of our careers we go unprepared and must confront a bigger, better "opponent".


When you go at an interview you meet their elite:

  • best HR (its their job to do interviews so ofc its better than you at it)
  • best technical people (they have more experience then you, and they will throw at you problems they solved years ago)
  • best managers (again they are great in soft skills)

We ... the technical people ... are usually introverts, we don't have any strong soft skills (except when we argue about spaces vs tabs), the education system failed us again, we are not prepared to deal with awkward social events like this.


You got the job, you won. In 3, 6 or 12 months it will happen again, you have to meet the managers in a 1 on 1 or worst 1 to many. Another awkward and difficult position for an introvert. You can be "attacked" or rewarded, it can go both ways. You feel cornered, you feel lost and afraid to say the "wrong things".


You think you deserve a raise, you think that the project pipeline sucks and it needs improvement, you have to say something but you are too afraid, or don't know how to approach the problem.


You want to leave because you found a new opportunity but you do not know how to approach the situation. You postpone it until the last minute, the company is now upset because you didn't announced them earlier so they could search for a replacement. They think you are a bad guy, but we know the truth, you are just shy or want to avoid "social awkwardness".


We just want to code!!!


salesman

We are strong in hard skills, but we also need "a spear of soft skills". A salesman, an advocate, an agent, we need a "bulldog" with charisma, that is native extrovert, to be as good as us but with different skill sets to fight for us, to speak in our behalf.

There ..., I said it!

PS: it may sounds like an exaggeration or even a satire, but I saw these scenarios all around me, along the years, with me or my peers as the actors.

PS2: I would totally hire an agent :)) For interviews I would send trough him a list of questions about their teams, procedures, how much they contribute to OSS and their code quality metrics, you know, relevant stuff, unlike some stupid tests and questions we get.

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Adrian B.G.

@bgadrian

Striving to become a master Go/Cloud developer; Father ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ; ๐Ÿค–/((Full Stack Web|Unity3D) + Developer)/g; Science supporter ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ”ฌ; https://coder.today

Discussion

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So while I agree with the overall gist of what you're writing here, there's one bit that really rubs me the wrong way: "We ... the technical people ... are usually introverts, we don't have any strong soft skill" โ€“ Can we finally put this stereotype to rest please? I've been coding for ~25 years now, across a variety of languages. I was and am still active in several FOSS communities/user groups and attend conferences fairly regularly, both as attendee as well as speaker. I have yet to see any evidence that software developers on average are significantly different from other groups when it comes to psychological traits.

Situations like job interviews are hard for introverts in any profession, but to be fair they are not always great for extroverts either, because as you rightfully pointed out they sometimes seem like the deck's stacked against you.

As Dian pointed out in her answer, the crux here is communication. In the team I manage I make sure to give people different options in how they want to communicate (face to face, email, slack, through tickets etc), so there should be a way for everyone to express themselves in a way that makes them feel comfortable. Conflating poor communication skills with introversion is not helpful for either group, since it stereotypes one half while giving the other an excuse.

 

And before anyone takes this discussion sideways by assuming I'm an extrovert, I'm not. I can be extroverted when I have to or want to be, but generally I'm comfortable being by myself and just doing my thing. There's plenty of other stuff I could add to that, but it's getting a bit private so you'd have to buy me dinner first :-p

 

Yes, I exaggerated on purpose of course, I was preparing my election speech :)).

But ... I think you are biased, if you go to conferences and social gatherings you see the developers that "pass" a certain threshold of ... don't know the term, I call it "they hatched". From my experience these devs are not representative (in my small circles are < 15%), hopefully I'm wrong and in a few years I will contradict myself (by meeting a lot more devs).

I cannot not put this stereotype to rest unfortunately, most of the technical people I know they are introverts, they do not want to engage with others and so they do not care/or "train" their communication skills. They do however communicate very well in their teams, but that is it, nothing outside of their comfort zone. Only the minimal interaction to do their jobs.

I haven't properly studied this area of physiology (yet), but I'm pretty sure a "lot" of devs are attracted by this job specially because they have to deal more with "machines" and less with "people".

Now I noticed the opposite too, once "they hatch", and meet other peers, they change their behavior at 180 degrees, they speak about their work with passion, they start to involve in projects.

 

You're of course entitled to your opinions, including the one about my bias. :-)

Let's go on a slight tangent for the sake of argument though: another common stereotype about people in software is that their rates of depression are above average (disclaimer: I've been diagnosed with dysthymia/chronic depression and had treatments for it in the past, so this one hits closer to home than the introvert/extrovert debate). Yet studies by public health authorities didn't confirm this and in some cases the numbers were actually even below the population average:

oas.samhsa.gov/2k7/depression/occu...
hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr168.pdf

I'm not saying you're guilty of this, but confirmation bias is real and strong: if someone already believes that most developers are introverts, everyone who meets the criteria will reaffirm their bias, while extroverted developers will be written off as exceptions. Researchers estimate that roughly half to three quarters of people are extroverted, so that number being < 15% in software developers would be so significantly different that there'd be studies all over the place.

 

Introverts don't have to be bad communicators. Communication is a skill just like writing code and it can be learned just like writing code; a tendency toward introversion might mean it takes more out of you to do it, but it doesn't mean you're naturally worse at it. The idea that introversion by itself explains -- or worse, excuses -- an inability to communicate effectively or navigate social situations is a complete crock.

That said, the current industry model is indeed unsustainable. Skilled and experienced software developers do well by it, if we're so inclined, because we can basically write our own tickets. For everyone else, it's variously intimidating, frustrating, or merely exploitive. But an agency model doesn't do anything to fix that problem; it just makes things even better for those of us already at the top of the heap. If you want a prototype that will improve the situation for everyone, look to labor unions.

 

The difference between introverts and extroverts don't lie in skills. I agree with you, anything can be leaned. I strongly disagree with anyone talking about "you're natural at it" or "it's innate for you".

The main difference is the energy required. An introvert can be a good communicator, but may can't be able to argue for hour and defend it's opinion. An extrovert can be a good coder, but may can't be able to sit alone for hours without going crazy.

 

I totally agree. There are obvious parallels between industries that have agents and our own industry. Whether it's agents or automation/norms, I can't imagine it will always be an everyone-for-themselves activity.

 

I seriously love your ps2 idea. Having an agent to deal with all the fuss sounds awesome !
Sadly, I can't see how it could be implemented.

 

I am sure the implementation details can be figured out, once we have the requirements. Other industries have them for over a century.

Pre-interviews to be held between agents and HR would be awesome, each one cross comparing their pro, cons and nice to haves.