Personality type and your IT career

Does your personality type have relevance for your career? To answer that, we turned to Kip Parent, CEO of Keirsey.com Inc., which markets the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, and Edward Kim, managing director of Keirsey's professional services division at Synergy Leaders LLC.

Is there a typical personality type that's well suited to IT?

KP: IT has become a complex industry, encompassing a number of different jobs. We have found that there are indeed some common personality types that gravitate toward certain roles within IT.

For example, the type that we most often find in the software developer role is what Keirsey calls the Rational-Architects (INTP, see chart below). These types' communication and viewpoint of the world are abstract. They are attracted to this role because they are able to continuously learn new skills and try new techniques in building complex solutions. Usually, though, this type has little interest in the details of implementation. They also prefer to work autonomously and without interruption. Quite often, a type similar to the Rational-Architect -- the Rational-Field Marshal (ENTJ) or the Rational-Mastermind (INTJ) -- will become the manager of the team, which creates a bridge between the developers and the more concrete outside world.

EK: A drastically different personality type is found in the QA function. The more careful, methodical, step-by-step, linear thinkers are best suited for QA, and most often we find the Guardian-Supervisor (ESTJ) and the Guardian-Inspector (ISTJ) in this role. These types don't miss a thing! They often take leading roles in QA, implementing comprehensive test suites and making sure all code is tested before release. These types usually become the managers of this area because they are extremely thorough, concrete, and seek closure on projects.

In tech support, the personality types we find are those who like to solve problems quickly. The Artisan-Performers (ESFP) and the Artisan-Promoters (ESTP) often excel in this role because they are the best troubleshooters and work well with people. These types have tactical intelligence, meaning they are instinctively adaptive and focus on immediate outcomes.

Have there been any changes in the types attracted to IT?

KP: Among more recent college graduates, we have found that these same types dominate the IT field. The technical demands of the profession seem to filter out people pretty early. The one area where we have seen a lot of growth in diversity of personality types has been with HTML developers. This seems to be a more freewheeling area, usually requiring design skills, so we tend to see a lot more of the Artisan and Idealist temperaments here.

Is there a conflict between the stereotypical IT personality and the traits common to leaders, such as CIOs?

KP: A typical conflict between the CIO (often a Guardian-Supervisor or Guardian-Inspector) and the software development staff is over schedules and timelines. The CIO is pulled by the needs of the company, which are usually heavily time-constrained. The developers are driven by the elegance and "correctness" of their solution. To them, schedules seem arbitrary and irrelevant. This conflict can be compounded by the fact that Guardians are "concrete" in their communication and outlook (with both feet on the ground), while Rationals are "abstract" (with their brains wrapped up in complexity).

How does knowing one's own personality type influence career choices and trajectories?

EK: It can be one of the most important factors in considering a career. It not only helps people figure out their likes and dislikes; it also provides data on their most natural talents and informs how they are different or similar to others in the industry. Understanding personality types can provide the critical insight that makes all the difference for effectiveness, both at the individual and organizational levels.

This story, "Personality type and your IT career" was originally published by Computerworld.

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