The world of software development is quite a specific environment. The fast pace of technological advances puts developers on the front of constant changes — environment, requirements, technologies, people, companies — everything is in everlasting flux. Being a software developer has some upsides — it usually pays well, can give quite a lot of satisfaction and allows people to do things that were often impossible before. But nothing comes without its downsides—especially when you’re an introvert.
It has been written a lot about the specifics of the culture in the world of technology. More, faster, better, growth, competition, race, winner takes it all… The polarization of ideas is visible here as much as it’s seen lately on the political scene. You’re either the one that wins or you’re out of the game. This can be observed both on the market level — where companies engage in often deadly fights — as well on the personal level, where being average often means you’re below expectations.
Money is a crucial aspect in many cases. It’s what pays for expensive cars, big houses, exotic trips, newest and shiniest toys, an inflated lifestyle that is often associated with being a successful developer. But it doesn’t end there. It has to pay for all the parties, alcohol, drugs, whatever comes in the bundle. Work hard, party hard — the motto I’ve heard much too often. Even if there is some surface of understanding of other people’s needs, it’s often a convenient topic for gossips and laughter. You don’t want to stand out, you don’t want to be different — you know what would be the cost.
But people are different. People do have different needs and preferences. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Yet there is an expectation that you will fit into someone’s vision. If you don’t, you’re often referred to as “not made to be a developer”. You are considered to be a problem. That’s even harder if you’re an introvert — you won’t shout and fight to get your needs fulfilled. Especially in the corporate environments, people with a high capability for small talk, political plays, socializing, fighting for their needs will quickly advance their careers and make introverts feel like some worse kind of person and willing to escape.
Open space. Meetings. Calls. Nights out. All the team building and socializing activities. While there are some benefits of all of them, they all come at the cost. Things can go very quickly very badly, especially if you’re an introvert. The noise, constant distractions, all the small talks and gossips, long periods without time alone — all of this takes a big toll. Even seemingly small things like improper lighting can cause a constant drain if you’re a highly sensitive person.
Creating a really people-friendly office comes at a cost. Creating an introvert-friendly office is even more expensive. That’s why I prefer to work from home. It’s not a perfect solution — introverts still need some level of human contact, maybe other people’s opinion, even a bit of small talk — but at least it gives a time and space to focus enough to do some work without feeling like a wreck afterwards. Finding the right balance in the office is usually very hard, and again the ones that are the loudest and most willing to fight for their needs are there to win.
We all need some reasons to do our work. For some, it’s the financial motivation. For others, it may be some interest in what they are doing. There are also people who look for some deeper sense in what they do — like serving humanity, fighting diseases, making people’s life easier, saving the planet, name your own. It’s definitely possible to do meaningful work as a software developer. The problem is that the vast majority of software jobs are all about making money. Usually making more money, for people who already have a lot of money. That’s why this job pays so well — not because it’s so meaningful, but because it’s so financially valuable.
The right software could help with solving a lot of issues humanity is dealing with. It can help to bring the right people together, help them to collaborate, process important information. The problem is that it is now very expensive, due to inflation caused by the high wages of corporate developers. Spending big amounts of money by the charity or some NGOs on developing custom software or hiring well-paid developers can be a challenge. Many of those organizations rely on free, open-source software, but as with anything in the world — that also doesn’t come for free. It’s also very hard to handle the specific needs of those organizations with the generic software.
While the problem is not specific to introverts, it’s very common for an introvert to seek for a deeper meaning in work. That’s definitely true for me, and it’s a real struggle. Money is important in our society, even if only to live without unnecessary stress of survival. If you want to take an advantage of human development in virtually any area, you need money. Yet finding the right job, that would give a deeper sense of meaning while paying enough to not stress about money is pretty hard.
I feel like I barely scratched the surface of the problem here. There are many things that are far from perfect in the software industry, and taking care of people is one of the most overlooked. It’s probably not specific to the software field — but definitely highly visible here. Being an introvert, apart from having its upsides, can be a challenge in many areas of life in the extrovert world. As with any other somehow discriminated groups, there should be more awareness of the issue and will to adjust to make the software development industry more open and kind for all humans. Diversity brings richness which cannot be exchanged for anything else.
What are your thoughts and observations? Are you an introvert or an HSP? Did you experience quiet people quit without telling the reasons? Is your work environment respectful of people’s needs? I’d love to hear from you!