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How to grow in a developer career despite being introvert?

leoat12 profile image Leonardo Teteo ・2 min read

Way before I went to college, when I was still learning how to use a computer properly, the idea that people had about people who liked computers were that they were nerds, the typical nerd we often see in movies. After I went to college, many of my colleagues were like that as well, many introvert, others not so much. I was always an introvert person, I don't talk much and when I talk it is with a quiet voice, which is talked over very often. After so many years of people asking me to speak louder the insecurity just grows, but when you start to grow up yourself you end up learning how to deal with it somehow. Presentations still scares me to death though.

Looking back at what I did, principally during college and now after graduating, I started to accept myself despite the desire to improve a little bit in the presentation end, which is important. I not only graduated with excellent marks, but did research (which involved presentations) for two years, went to the United States as part of an exchange program for a year (I live in Brazil), which only a few are qualified to do, and after that started to work as developer in a company where they respect me as developer, despite still not talking much. I did a lot, mostly by making my actions speak for myself.

Despite all that, my personality still worries me regarding my career. I don't know if this is true everywhere, but since I know what is a developer, I always thought that my personality fit well with the profession. However, it seems the world I once knew (or thought I knew) is changing. Many developers are taking the stage, speaking in conferences, meeting people and dealing with business directly. I've read about "soft-skills", which includes a good communication, and many people commenting that soft-skills are the difference between a developer and a senior developer. Many job descriptions includes such characteristics as well in addition to technical skills and I always feel insecure about this.

I do think that companies may be losing talent when they are too rash on that end. Introverts may not be the best people to make a presentation to the CEO of the company, but they are generally good observers and have great sensibility because they spend more time looking and thinking than talking. They can give valuable insights if given the chance. One thing I read today that I found great was how Square is doing silent meetings to aim more inclusion, transparency, scalability and speed, touching right into the inclusion of introvert people in meetings among other reasons.

What to do when you face with such challenges? Are you introvert yourself? If so, how you deal with it in your job and career?

Discussion (13)

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dmfay profile image
Dian Fay

Ignore "soft"; the only reason for that qualifier is an historic reluctance on the part of people who should really know better to admit that socialization and communication are as important as anything else. They're skills. You can learn how to use them effectively the same way you can learn anything else. Few people are naturally gifted orators or convincing disputants; it's mostly practice and a willingness to stick your neck out occasionally. The classic advice is to start going to meetups and work your way up to presenting in front of a small audience; if your employer does lunch&learn sessions that's another possibility, or you could do what I did and jump in the deep end speaking at a conference.

Introversion doesn't mean you can't do this stuff or even that you're naturally bad at it, it means it takes more effort and you need time to yourself to recharge. The only way it's impossible is if you convince yourself that you can't do it.

amigeekrumi profile image
Ruth • Edited

I agree. Communication is like any other skill, so it requires practice to get the hang of it. As an awkward high schooler, I used to spend more time reading than socializing until I found the self help section of my library. Books that helped include "how to make friends and influence people" and "the idiot's guide to body language".

Something I'm currently getting over is maintaining network relations. My introvert brain has the habit of not wanting to bug people. I end up waiting until I need something to reach out for help, so I never ask for it because I don't want to be the person who only shows up for help! To fix this, I've set out to send friendly correspondence randomly. Doesn't need to be anything big, a simple "long time no chat, how are you?"

I do end up tiring myself pretty quick, but I've noticed a higher tolerance over the years! 😆

leoat12 profile image
Leonardo Teteo Author

I will look for the books. Thanks!
The people from my current company are very approachable so I don't have much reluctance in asking for help there when I need, but in my last job it was really a problem. It is a bad habit indeed. Not want to interrupt people also lead to not saying anything when you should.

leoat12 profile image
Leonardo Teteo Author

Today I'm better than I once was, I was really proud about my graduation project presentation. I'm progressing, I know I can do it, I just don't know if it is going to be faster enough to follow my career. You have to be ready for the opportunities, right?

lewismenelaws profile image
Lewis Menelaws

I think Introverts do really well in this industry as well as extroverts.

I think there is a common misconception between the two types of personality. One being social and easy with people while the other is fairly awkward and doesn't like talking to people. To put it in perspective, everyone gets nervous at the thought of speaking in front of a large audience. I know introverts can do talks while extroverts can do a desk job all day.

I believe the difference between a developer and a senior developer is communication. In your job, you will be working with other developers who create projects for users that can be businesses or consumers. The similarity between all of these different entities is they are all human. Software is here to serve the need for humans, which is why communication is extremely important in software development (and any other job really).

As an introvert, you can probably focus on working on your skills as a software developer, but also on your skills of explaining your product.

leoat12 profile image
Leonardo Teteo Author

I usually get more comfortable when I know very well what I'm saying, explaining technical stuff for other developers is not a problem generally. I don't deal with clients right now, but the opportunity will certainly arise. I have to improve for this moment.

Also, communication can be done in many forms. Where I work we generally talk by messenger and everybody is fine with it, but we do speak when it is necessary. The communication is good despite that. Like I said in the post when I mentioned Square, the communication may not be spoken and that's completely fine.

mortoray profile image
edA‑qa mort‑ora‑y

There is a difference between shyness and introversion. A lot of people are both, but it needn't be the case. In particular one can work to improve the shyness aspect, but probably change being an introvert.

Once they overcome the shyness, introverts can be good at having short productive meetings. There's no desire for chit-chat. If you organize ahead of time, have clear questions, get to the point, then it should be okay.

Presentations, etc. are skills that you can learn and manage. While the after-presentation parties may never be easy, all of this are learnable skills. These are skills that extroverts need to learn as well. Just because somebody loves company and can talk up a storm, doesn't naturally mean they have good communication skills.

These soft skills are vital to advancing in your career. There's really no way around that. You need to communicate with others.

matmooredev profile image

I think a key point is that introversion is not the same as being bad at communicating, it just affects the way you prefer to communicate and what takes more effort.

There are people who are very extroverted, and are terrible communicators, they just don't recognise it. Your example of being talked over is a great example. It's not really fair to blame yourself for talking quietly. The entire group is not communicating well if one person gets drowned out. They should be able to listen to everyone and respect their point of view.

I think workplaces are in general biased towards extroverts, but ultimately it depends on who you're working with, and the way the team does things. This is something I'd try to get a feel for at the interview stage rather than reading too much into the job description.

As a senior dev communication is a big part of my role, and it doesn't come naturally to me, but certain things are easier than others (written proposals, 1-1 discussions, slack) and certain things come with practice (presenting, giving and receiving feedback). IMO there is also nothing wrong with just listening to what people say, taking some time to think about what was said, and then following up with them at a later time.

In a meeting environment a good facilitator can make all the difference because they can actually steer the conversation, stopping people from interrupting, or highlighting when somebody has something to say. Where I work we also have a slack channel for introverts which is an awesome support network.

leoat12 profile image
Leonardo Teteo Author

Exactly, I believe that it is just a matter of the way you communicate. My current job is like that, we communicate mostly through Google Hangout by text and so I don't think there is any communication problems. We have some meetings sometimes, but the daily communication is through text. Since then, I've been more careful about the positions I consider, it is not only the company that chooses you, but also you choose the company based on how good the environment is to be productive no matter your personality, respecting everybody for who they are.

jgauffin profile image
Jonas Gauffin

Introverts may not be the best people to make a presentation to the CEO of the company.

That's just plain wrong. Introversion isn't that you don't want to talk, give presentations or communicate with people. Interaction exhausts introverts while it boosts extroverts.

Many introverts are shy, but imho that's just a consequence of the introversion. Because if you are quiet, people tend to assume that you are shy. When you grow up you are typically around the same people and if those people treat you as shy you will become shy.

I was shy when I grew up, but have worked on it and I never have a problem with speaking up now. I love explaining code, design patterns, architecture etc.

I give talks about programming, have done several presentations to management and CEOs. The difference compared to extrovert colleagues is that I need some alone time before and after to charge my batteries.

Don't use introversion as an excuse to not do those things. Practice makes perfect.

leoat12 profile image
Leonardo Teteo Author

That's my impression of some interviews I had in the past years, there were some that I strongly believe that they eliminated me because they realized that I was introvert, nothing makes me think otherwise. The first internship I got had a less subjective method giving scores for important aspects and I almost had a perfect score in the technical test and I was not particularly bad in the group interview. This one I said I was introvert, until there I didn't mention it if they didn't ask since it is clearly bad to business, at least around here. My current job interview was the same, I said everything, now I'm more open about it, the environment was also more comfortable to have a honest conversation.

It is not an excuse, I would never use it as an excuse to not go since most of the time it is not an option, I had to do a thirty minutes graduation final project presentation, I prepared for weeks and I was proud of the result. In my first internship I also had to go to a grand stage to present the results of the intern and there I realized that having a microphone to make sure everybody is listening helps a lot in my confidence. I would prepare for it, I'm better at it now, but far from perfect. It is a struggle.

ky1e_s profile image
Kyle Stephens

Check out a book called "Quiet" by Susan Cain. It will make you feel much better about being an introvert - you can bring a lot of value to the table, so to speak.

leoat12 profile image
Leonardo Teteo Author

I will take a look at it. Thank you.
That's one thing I never did: read about the subject.