Knowing Your Myers-Briggs Type Can Help You on the Job More Than You Think

Knowing Your Myers-Briggs Type Can Help You on the Job More Than You Think

If you’re a software engineer who’s completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, chances are good you already know you’re some combination of an I, T,or J.

If you haven’t done the MBTI, you’re probably wondering… 1) What’s the MBTI?  2) What’s an I, a T, and a J? and… 3) Why should I care?

MBTI in the Workplace

The MBTI is an introspective personality questionnaire originally developed in the 1940’s to help people entering the workforce find fulfilling jobs based on personality type. The MBTI proved so successful in its original purpose that it remains extremely popular in the business sector, with counselors, recruiters, and employers administering the test to match people with potentially ideal job descriptions.

Created by Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, the MBTI has origins in Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types. Jung proposed that what seems like random human behavior can be explained by understanding how people consistently take in and process information and make decisions.  

The MBTI measures where on the spectrum each person falls among four areas of cognitive function, for a total of 16 possible personality types:

  • Extraversion (E) to Introversion (I)
    (Attitudes that are outward turning vs inward turning)
  • Sensing (S) to Intuition (N)
    (The process used in information gathering)
  • Thinking (T) to Feeling (F)
    (The process used in decision making)
  • Judging (J) to Perceiving (P)
    (Methods of orientation to the outside world)

Most participants find the MBTI almost uncanny in its accuracy. It’s also more fluid and complex than standard personality tests, with measurements that fall along a spectrum rather than over simplistic dichotomies such as “extrovert” and “introvert.” While each of us may have a “preferred” type of function in all four categories, every person utilizes every function at one point or another.

Finally, enough attention has been given to the MBTI that it reaches far beyond abstract theory and into practical application, with an emphasis that every personality type has meaningful and effective ways to contribute in the workplace.

Which brings us to software engineers…

In 2003, a student in computer engineering published a paper looking at the results of software engineers given the MBTI. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the engineers gave some consistent results, with Introversion (I), Thinking (T), and Judging (J) being the most obvious dominant functions.

Like professionals in any field, software engineers are made up of all types, but the Myers-Briggs types most represented in software engineering are the ISTJ and INTJ: those who have an inward-turning, or reflective, attitude; those who rely on logic and analysis when making decisions; and those who prefer direct and standard guidelines when making sense of the world around them.

ISTJ: The Inspector

All 16 Myers-Briggs types have been given summary nicknames, the ISTJ being bestowed “The Inspector.” The Inspector is often focused on details, driven to systematically create and enforce order.

Have you been described as any of the following? Noticeable professional qualities of the ISTJ are:

  • Responsible
  • Organized
  • Analytical
  • Orderly
  • Productive

And personality-wise, they are:

  • Private
  • Calm
  • Stable
  • Cautious
  • Practical

INTJ: The Mastermind

The INTJ, aka “The Mastermind,” is typically strategic and logical in his/her way of thinking. Why do they gravitate towards software engineering? Because they are known for being problem-solvers, coming up with innovative ideas to improve systems and processes.

Professionally, INTJs are known for being:

  • Innovative
  • Strategic
  • Logical
  • Analytical
  • Intellectual

And as far as personality goes, they are usually:

  • Thoughtful  
  • Reserved
  • Selective
  • Independant
  • Curious

Of course, we can’t have strengths without weaknesses…

Just as knowing your strengths helps you on the job, so too does being aware of areas for improvement.

ISTJ Problem Solving

If you are an ISTJ, be aware that the same traits that make you dependable, productive, and loyal may cause you to appear rigid, judgmental, and/or unable to relate to other types of people.

But don’t fear! Once you understand and accept that you have areas ripe for development, you can work to exercise other cognitive muscles: the challenges ISTJs face almost always stem from the “introverted sensing” functions needing support from the “extroverted thinking” functions. Here are ways to find balance:

  • Make an effort to listen to the ideas and needs of others entirely before you pass judgment.
  • Recognize that your knowledge and experience can be enriched by integrating other people’s knowledge and experience.  
  • Remember that the order and control you value in your internal world won’t always appear in the outer world. When you find yourself blaming others for problems, look inward for solutions.

INTJ Problem Solving

The same qualities that make you an excellent engineer–being innovative, insightful, and analytical–must be balanced with an effort to avoid being perceived as critical, dismissive, or derisive towards others.

An INTJ becomes well-rounded when s/he makes an effort to balance the dominant “introverted intuition” functions with “extraverted thinking.” Here are some suggestions:

  • Ask yourself if you are using judgement to understand ideas thoroughly or dismiss them prematurely.
  • Before you enforce rigid or unreasonable expectations of others, be sure you make an effort to understand personality types that may be more meandering and/or flexible than your own.
  • An INTJ’s internal world is more important to him/her than almost every other personality type. Many INTJs are known for being sarcastic or dismissive, which may be a result of understandably needing some distance from others. Make sure to fulfill this need without being insulting or hurtful.

And what if you are an engineer with Extroverted, Feeling, or Perceiving tendencies?  

Just like any profession, software engineering may have statistically higher numbers of certain types, but are still comprised of many others. The range of specialties needed from software engineers–programmers, interface designers, testers, analysts, and managers–means that there is room for all types to flourish.

If you find you fall on the Extroverted, Feeling, or Perceiving side of the spectrums, you may want to consider areas that allow for utilization of those strengths, such as:

  • Cross-functional-team management
  • Design
  • UX
  • Research and Development
  • Teaching or Instruction

However you fall into the MBTI, remember, no software engineer lives on a island. The most effective professionals recognize that it takes a diverse team to deliver to a diverse world.

Have you taken the MBTI? How have you used it in your professional development? Leave your comments below!