Startup Trenches

lessons learned while doing tech startups

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Why Interaction Degrades on Dev Teams (and why that isn’t necessarily a bad thing)

When I first heard it, it was a life changing clarion call.

"The best development teams are highly collaborative. They religiously pair program 100% of the time, they work on site in open floor plans, they are constantly communicating. These super teams will run circles around stereotypical anti-social types who lock themselves away to do their work alone."

I took dramatic steps to learn how to operate in such a manner and to get onto such a team. Reborn via a Pivotal Labs engagement, the team I joined came back to our HQ as enthusiastic devotees of their highly collaborative agile methodology.

Then, day by day, things started to change. Nine months later, pair programming only happened on a per situation basis instead of being the default way of doing things. Developers started spending more days working from home than before. Weekly meetings got put off to monthly occurrences.

Come to find out, this was inevitable.

Highly collaborative environments are made-to-order for extrovert personalities, and a lot of Engineers are introverts (myself included). According to Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts, by and large introverts work best alone, and forcing them into intense group environments increases their stress while reducing their creativity and productivity. I’m less introverted than a lot of talented Engineers that I’ve worked with, but even so, the last nine months of being in highly charged collaborative team environments has been exhausting. I can’t imagine what it would have been like for some of my more introverted friends and co-workers.


I still believe in pair programming, IPMs and retros. But I’m also quietly re-setting a place at the table for the part of me that wants to work alone in peaceful solitude from time to time. I believe that introverted Engineers shouldn’t be judged or forced to work in ways that are against their nature. In fact I’m making it a personal mission to do my part to accommodate myself and introverted colleagues so that the teams I’m a part of can maximize their creativity and brilliance.

  1. roginc posted this