Disproportionate amount of introverts in software testing

My wife and I were talking the other day about my learning styles research. She observed that it seemed to her that most testers tend to be more introverted than extroverted. While I don’t have the facts to prove or disprove this (yet), in thinking about the testers I know, and my interactions with other testers, I think this might be the case. While there certainly are extroverts in the field of software testing, the majority of people seem to be introverts.

There are two possible explanations for this — there’s something about software testing (or perhaps software development, in general?) that draws in and attracts introverts, or my wife and I just tend to remember and associate more with introverts than extroverts, being introverts ourselves.

This question is one that I’ll have to keep an eye on as I progress in my research. Anyone have any thoughts about the issue?

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10 comments on “Disproportionate amount of introverts in software testing

  1. I believe that Bruce Tognazzini commented on this in the Apple Developer publications back in the late 1980s. I think he had some statistics in his article. I believe I recall the article being reprinted in his book “Tog On Interface”

    You might check his web site, http://www.asktog.com/ for leads.

  2. The discussion was triggered in the first place by yet another explanation. A senior QA person mentioned that it felt like her time in the field of QA has pushed her more toward introversion than she naturally was. Her implied thought was that there may be something about the nature of the work that nurtures a more introverted perspective, regardless of where we begin on the scale.

  3. Hi, Andy —

    I’ve also seen statistics that point to self-selection of introverts into software related fields. As I recall, the dominant type is INTJ across software disciplines. Introverts are definitely the minority in the general population.

    Esther

  4. Hi Andy,

    I’ve been doing some interviewing on potential hires recently, and a certain amount of introversion is something I actually look for. I associate extroverts with a certain lack of organization and attention (a generalization of course), which are not characteristics conducive to spending many hours doing the same kind of things in a systematic way.

    There are definitely limits to this, and I think testers are more outgoing than developers as a whole (but less than the next step ‘up’, business analysts!).

  5. Paul, I’m an extrovert, and extremely organized at work. I have several techniques I use to stay organized in the face of chaos, which is what happens to a lot of testers. Hiring a lot of introverted testers will certainly bring you a quiet group. But will it work when you have a cross-functional team, and the marketing people (more often extroverts) start screaming and shouting? It’s useful to have someone else who likes to think out loud when others are also. I’ll blog about this too.

  6. Johanna,

    You’re absolutely right of course – these are generalizations, and I’m very happy for any candidate to show me that they don’t belong in this generalization (in fact the first two people I hired did just that!). And equally I’ve rejected perfectly good candidates because they were too introverted, and couldn’t stand up for themselves in the kind of lively debate you suggest.

    In the face of so many potential candidates, however, there are tendencies that I look for, and this is one of them. It would be a problem if it were part of a pass/fail checklist (hires here must have a degree, which to me should be a ‘good to have’), but as an indicator I think it works out fine.

    Cheers, Paul

  7. An introvert, by definition, is someone who gains energy by being alone. An extrovert finds solitude debilitating. Therefore, it’s no surprise that jobs which require long periods of solitary concentration disproportionately attract and retain introverts.

    That doesn’t mean to say that extroverts can never succeed in the field — obviously. It just means that extroverts prefer a routine that gives them more opportunity to interact with people.

    This might be a good time to clear up some myths. Extroversion does not imply disorganisation and introversion does not imply an inability to stand up for oneself. They are purely measures of gregriousness.

  8. Celia hit the nail on the head with her definition of introvert vs. extrovert. There is quite a bit of stigma attached to these labels that may or may not have any factual (or predictive) basis. Although I would tend to agree that introverts are probably more comfortable in areas of software development that require a high level of solitude, this could be changing with more emphasis being placed on extreme programming ideas like pair programming. I will be interested to see if this type of human interaction for testers/developers in the industry as well as the classroom will attract and retain more extroverts in the field. (I know this is an old discussion Andy but just wanted to throw the idea out there in case you come across any literature.)

  9. I have a website full of resources and support for introverts and have discovered, among other things, that introverts love the Internet and predominate there. The normal proportions of introvert to extrovert (30:70) reverse themselves in higher education and on the Internet to 70% introverts and 30% extroverts) so your conclusion doesn’t surprise me. Introversion is a legitimate personality type and it seems the Internet was made just for us!

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