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How I thrived as an introverted developer

craftzdog profile image Takuya Matsuyama Originally published at blog.inkdrop.info ・7 min read

Hi, it's Takuya here.
I'm a software developer, an introvert, and happy.
You don't have to become an extrovert person in order to become a successful developer.

TL;DR

  • I’m fine with being introverted
  • Introverts’ trait is their reflecting thoughts
  • How I joined Yahoo! Japan — Showed what I built
  • Keep publishing your work to make and retain connections with people
  • How to work remotely with few meetings

I'm fine with being introverted

I hate telephones. I have never made a sales call to get a freelance job. I have a fragile temperament. I don't have so many friends. I can't be always friendly to everyone.
And I don't like parties.
Every time, I need to consider for more than 24 hours if I should join a party. I'm extremely nervous when I talk with unfamiliar people. I can hardly make eye contact when talking to people.

On the other hand, being extroverted looks great.
They look enjoying every day among a lot of their friends.
They can get great opportunities because they can express themselves very well.
So, you might think extroverts are always better than introverts.

But, no, that's a bad stereotype and the black and whitening of psychology.
I'm not anti-social. I love people. But I just can't behave like extroverts.
What I want to say is that you can grow in a developer career despite being introverted.
Being introverted is a trait rather than a disadvantage.
In this video, I'm gonna talk about how I thrived as an introverted developer.
It's totally fine to be an introvert if you want to become a successful developer.

In my daily life, I rarely talk with people except for my wife.
And, I am about to forget Japanese vocabularies.
But, as you can see, I'm doing good.
I'm spending a comfortable life, doing what I love, and building apps that I want to use.
In the previous video, I've shared my experience on how I earned $17,000 in a month as a freelancer.
So, it's possible.
And currently, I'm running my own software-as-a-service called Inkdrop, which is a simple Markdown note-taking app.
And it makes enough profit, so I don't need to make sales calls or send cold emails to get freelance jobs.

Introverts' trait is their reflecting thoughts

Alt Text

When I was young, I was so sad that I can't make "good friendships".
I tried hard to go along with people but soon I got exhausted.
My energy to hang out with friends is extremely low.
My interests usually didn't match with other people's.
I really really envied those who are active with close friends.

But I found myself happy when reading books, drawing pictures, shooting photos, playing rock music with guitar and drums, and coding software.
Creating things was so much fun for me.
I could sit at a PC for a long extended time, through the night.
My mom couldn't understand that and asked me like "Why do you need to do such a thing for a long time?"
That's just because it was fun to do.
It was fun to play music, it was fun to draw illustrations, and it was so fun to build things with programming.
I couldn't stop doing them because I didn't get exhausted unlike being with friends.
I think this is the ability of introverts that extroverts don't have.

Extroverts often find joy in socializing and interacting with the outside world.
They can thrive best when there are action and movement.
But they don't like sitting at a PC for a long time or focusing on a lot of tasks alone.

Introvert dominant people thrive in spaces where they can reflect, act and then reflect again.
Something like, how do I feel, what is this feeling, what did happen exactly, why doesn't it work, why is it so beautiful, how to improve this, how can I express this idea....
They do those reflectings even while being with their friends.
So, that's why they tend to be soon exhausted.
They need the mental space in order to pause and re-energize themselves.
But people usually don't care that or wait for you.

But this habit gives you great creativity later, even if it's currently painful for you.
Trust me, you are ok.

Olympic gold medalist David Hemery reports that almost nine out of ten top athletes identify as introverts:

A remarkably distinguishing feature is that a large proportion, 89 percent of these sports achievers, classed themselves as introverts - David Hemery

And author Eric Barker says:

The superpower of introverts is that they are far more likely to become experts in their field.

-- Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong - Eric Barker

And Paul Graham says:

The most important thing is to be able to think what you want, not to say what you want.

-- Hackers & Painters

So, you don't have to be fluent to express yourself.
To become a great hacker, just think and build what you want.
Inside your head, anything is allowed.

Tips to thrive

Well, let's talk about the strategy to thrive as an introverted developer.
The key is just to keep building things and publishing them.
You don't need to make a ground-shaking thing from the beginning.
You can start out by making something tiny and simple.

How I joined Yahoo! Japan

Screen Shot 2021-03-09 at 17.33.40

I joined Yahoo! Japan about 10 years ago as a new college graduate.
Companies want to know you are competent to solve real-world problems by coding.
And showing what you built is the best way to prove that through a job interview.
Because many people don't have such the public works and they just tell what they learned in the college instead of what they built.
So, showing your works would be impressive for the interviewers.

I explained what I built during the interview. I talked about:

  • What problem I solved
  • What was the challenge
  • How I tackled it
  • What I learned

from my projects.
For example, I made a Twitter client for iPhone Safari in 2010.
I made it because there wasn't a solid browser client for Twitter yet on the internet.
It was challenging for me to build an AJAX-based web app.
Since HTML5 APIs or ReactJS isn't available yet at that time, manipulating DOMs based on the server response with jQuery was a cool way to build a product.
I used LAMP stack, which is a server-side stack with Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP.
And it successfully got traction and attracted 1,000 people in Japan.
I've learned how to build a web app for small touch screens.
With this work, I proved my competence to build an attractive web app from scratch.

So, just following some tutorials is not enough.
You should build your own things yourself.

Keep publishing your work

When I'm freelancing, I kept publishing my personal works on the internet.
It's important to appeal to people that you make interesting things.
Because your friends are actually checking them.

I've got all the past freelance jobs through referrals via my friends.
I said my friends, but they are not my close friends.
Actually, I rarely contacted them, but we were aware of each other indirectly on social media.
Then, they remember you, and once they've got a job to ask you, they will send a message to you. Or, they will introduce another person who is interested in working with you.

So, no matter how small your achievement is, publish it!

You don't have to make a lot of connections like thousands.
I have only 300 friends on facebook.
You should connect with people who tell you they love your works.
I very occasionally join a meetup and make some friends.
Joining a hackathon would be a great way to make friends as well.
And also, giving a talk at a conference attracts some people.

Then, your friend will introduce someone who is looking for a software developer.

Jow to work remotely with few meetings

undraw_Remote_team_re_ck1y

As you may know, remote work is a great work-style for introverts.
You don't have to meet people every day, which is great.
I have some tips for doing remote work.

Most of my clients were startups.
So, my job was basically to build a service from scratch.
For example, building a new mobile app, including UI design and server-side program.
Or, building a web service using Ruby on Rails with Slim and AngularJS.

As I talked in the previous video, I only had contract jobs with project-based fees instead of hourly fees.
First, I hold a meeting and hear what the client wants to make.
After that, I have meetings with the client only once or twice a month.
I use a voice chat or a video chat if I thought it doesn't need to talk face-to-face with them.

The point is that I frequently reported my work progress in order not to let the client be worried about me abandoning the work.
When I'm making a prototype, I often send the screenshots via Slack or Email.
Then, I deploy it somewhere so that the client can try it anytime.
If it were a mobile app, I use TestFlight to show the progress.
Once they trusted me, those frequent reports are no longer necessary.

Writing documentation significantly helps you reduce the communication cost because it answers questions on your behalf.
So, I write documentation in as much detail as possible so it'll be still ok even if I quit the project.
The amount of the documentation would be like 20~30 pages of Keynote.
And I send it to the client a week before the meeting and let them read it.
So, I only need to clarify some points in the meeting and I can avoid explain them over and over again.


So, that's how I thrived as an introverted developer.
Hope that's helpful!

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Discussion (1)

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safventure profile image
Saf Venture • Edited

I learned a lot. Thanks for the helpful advice.

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