We all know there are many different walks to life, but the characters and personalities you encounter in tech are amazing, and quite hilarious at times. I’ve always wanted to talk about the various groupings of moods, characteristics and skill-sets of the tech folks I’ve personally encountered over the years, so here it goes!

Prologue

Wally likes to debate every point, in fact, hell even debate a debate about a point so long as he gets to hear his own voice; aka the contrarian. Business conversations become slightly awkward when the vocabulary Wally chooses mucks with the flow of thought in a meeting, using words such as “solutioning” while discussing customer interactions, or “inherent inefficiencies” when describing product team formations. So how can you help Wally be the best he can be every day at work?

Knowing the various tech types and personalities can help you become a better team player and manager. Below, I’ve listed many of the personality types you’ll meet in tech, alongside some characteristics that can help you detect and understand the meanings behind intelligence and sharp mood swings.

1. The Architect

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Wally, defined. Prefers to think through problems using a unique vocabulary consisting of phrases like: “premature optimization”, “suboptimal modularity”, “homogenous representation” and “solutioning” (is that even a word?). You’ll be able to spot architects with ease, since they argue most everything for the sake of argument, and are unconditional contrarians. Expect them to use architect vernacular during business conversations as well.

How to work with…

Let them make their point all the way before interrupting, as interruptions are seen as a challenge and you could trigger an emotional response. Ask if they can show data to validate their perspective; this can also trigger an emotional response. Important note: Don’t give them a hands-on product ticket/bug to work on unless there’s no immediate deadline or bottom-line impact risk; it will take forever and definitely be overengineered.

2. The Rockstar

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How to work with…

You don’t work with a rockstar, a rockstar works with you. Rockstars are just as great at silo’ing off to get shit done as they are being a team-player. Retention is difficult, so managers be aware that rockstars need constant challenges, recognition and fair compensation to stay happy. Don’t pair a rockstar with an architect, it can lead to undesired results. Some organizations will even take a step further and promote a rockstar to an architect. You might as well give them a sign that says: “Human wiki in the office, ask anything” and kiss rockstar status goodbye as they’ll be pulled into every product discussion possible for insights.

3. The Exterminator

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Squashes bugs and fixes shit. Exterminators are critical for all software projects, since there will be stuff to fix (mainly shitty code from the rockstars and architects). Exterminators are super passionate about finding the ideal way to solve a problem, but won’t spend quite as much time as an architect. They are aware of the industry (and company) best practices, coding conventions, style guides, most IDE settings and also know more about JIRA than any other member of your technical staff.

How to work with…

Give exterminators a steady flow of bugs, and let them define the filters and views in your bug tracking software that best work for their needs. Exterminators also need to know they are positively impacting the bottom-line of the company and helping to create happy customers. They are not robots. Don’t use bug fixed counts as an indicator of work output or performance. Do use NPS score and customer feedback as the measurement for what to work on next and impact made by exterminators.

4. The Data Junkie

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This individual is great at mining data, pulling reports, analyzing logs and finding meaning from audit trails. Often times, the word “data”, “science” or “analyst” are within the job title. What makes this personality difficult to spot is the fact that sometimes it’s just a senior engineer and you’ll have to work with them for a period of time before determining their hidden passion for data. The data junkie typically works on marketing or product usage problems alongside business leaders.

How to work with…

Data is king, and to make sure the data junkie is happy, it’s all about tools and storage of the data in question. Anything from relational databases, to key-value stores and raw logs. Some prefer working with Hadoop and appliances like Netezza). Provide the data junkie with autonomy needed to create warehouses, databases, reports and dig into details. Occasionally sprinkle in a few challenges like “What’s our PPC to LTV by cohort”, and you’ll have some happy junkies.

5. The Perpetual Newbie

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This is the guy that always appears green, no matter how much time he’s spent on the product, within the industry, or in tech altogether. The newbie is usually hesitant to deploy code to production and wants to pair program all the time, even the simple problems. They question all the work they’ve done, then ask you to question it and provide a better solution so they don’t have to think through it alone. They often look up at the ceiling when you ask them a simple question such as “Did you eat lunch?”

How to work with…

Don’t. I recommend you let the newbies figure a way out of the organization before they reduce the velocity of the team until others leave around them due to job dissatisfaction. Better yet, refine your hiring process to detect these time suckers before they even enter your organization.

6. The Total Nerd

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Idolized by movies such as Hackers and Sneakers, these folks are great representatives of technology companies and are actually super smart and friendly people to work with, and are well-rounded engineering talent; typically computer engineering undergrad. Sadly, you will come across a handful of true total nerds at each tech company, if even that. You’ll know you spotted one based on attire, demeanor, speech and hobbies outside of work which typically involve board games you can’t buy at major toy chains and any activity played 10 feet from others and communication happens through a headset.

How to work with…

Probably the easiest group to work with of all the groups above because they don’t have an ego, have opinions but not strongly opinionated and usually offer sound advice based on expertise and prior knowledge. Treat them fairly, treat them with respect, and recognize their efforts as they are an endangered breed.

Epilogue

So there you have it, a list of some of the top personality types you’ll encounter in a software company. You’ll likely have individuals that fit multiple types (E.g. — A Rockstar Exterminator) but for the most part, they are separate and distinct. Keep them all fed well, hydrated, tooled with great hardware + software and give them tough work to do!

CEO | Founder | Entrepreneur | Father. Formerly @volusion, @intuit, @eharmony, @iac. Perpetually seeking enlightenment. https://www.linkedin.com/in/bardiadejban

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