Leadership

10 challenging types of techies... and how to manage them


It's wrong to stereotype people. It isn't wrong, however, to recognize classifications of the team members you deal with every day. Many of the types of techies identified below may seem familiar to veteran IT managers. My ideas on how to work effectively with each type follow the descriptions.

This information originally appeared in the article "Tame these 10 types of techies," by Patrick Andrews. It's also available as a PDF download.

#1: Human Bottleneck

These techies either demand to do all the coding, or never finish their work, or both. Impress upon them that quality is often the opposite of perfectionism. Also, feed them small, well-defined tasks and praise any competent output that is on schedule.

#2: Bright Green

These straight-out-of-college developers like the new, cool technology. They tend to over-engineer by exploiting all the bells and whistles of the development environment -- even when it's inappropriate. These green techies often rely on their planet-size intellects to help them get back on schedule in predelivery all-nighters. Introduce them to colleagues who recently were Bright Green but learned the hard way to focus on deliverables.

#3: Tried-But-Untested

The mantra of these techies is, "Hey, we've got a whole testing team, why should I worry about checking my code?" It's a guarantee that these specimens will cause you grief, so it's essential to pull them up short. You'll be doing them a favor in the long term.

#4: Techno-Babbler

Their code doesn't work because they "need" something. These techies spend too much time in newsgroups and fail to realize that overusing jargon is not a sign of adulthood. Require these techies to give an acronym-free, from-first-principles explanation of project results to management.

#5: User-Loser

These techies consider many client questions stupid and deem the client worthy of a verbal flame. This often leads to the client not doing business with your company in the future. If your developers have contempt for "suits," try introducing a "dress-up Wednesday" -- and keep them away from outside phone contact.

#6: Task Farmer

As your self-appointed deputy, this type of techie assumes that the project plan is only a guideline and that it's acceptable for team members to swap roles and tasks without asking you. Clarify that although their suggestions are welcome, you're the one who carries the weight of the project.

#7: Under the Radar

This colleague has a tendency to generate maximally obscure code. This is usually a way to hide inelegance of implementation and to secure employment by preventing any other developers from working on his or her input. A curative strategy is to make the techie responsible for technical mentoring of a demanding Bright Green team member.

#8: Winging-It Commander

This type of techie's curriculum vitae says they're proficient in Java, SQL, and Perl, but their lines of code are sparse and curiously primitive. This techie will also place unusual demands on other team members to help "debug" their deliverables. Projects can't accommodate this level of on-the-job training. Encourage team members to be honest about their technical comfort zones by offering them appropriate training opportunities.

#9: Prima Donna

These characters simply won't tackle mundane tasks. And if you suggest that they have to adapt existing code, there's always a performance of operatic proportions. Make it clear that they'll work for the technical author for a month if this nonsense persists.

#10: Gender Agenda

Some developers have trouble working for, or even alongside, colleagues of the opposite sex. Challenge their assumptions by introducing them to a cross-section of your most accomplished colleagues.

Project managers don't have time to conduct therapy sessions in the course of an already-demanding project. All you can do is recognize team members' specific ongoing issues and ensure that they don't damage the work in progress.

23 comments
defproc
defproc

Some of the characteristics you slate are well founded (I won't turn a comment into an essay). All you're doing here is explaining how to manipulate your brethren.

Absolutely
Absolutely

The department workhorse. Knows more than you, his supervisor, and does it better. You want the benefit of this techie's abilities, but when your boss comes around, what do you say you've been doing?

cats
cats

How do you deal with the "smoke screen" types? They are the individuals who trash colleagues, predecessors. When they perform a small task, they declare themselves to be a "hero". They may grossly exagerrate their own accomplishments, twist the truth, or out and out lie. Oddly, the have large egos. As well, they stick onto the boss like a lichen. Smoke screens tend to also exhibit the traits of numbers 4 and 5. How does one deal with such a person? To complicate matters further, let's assume that this type of individual is unionized.

Jaqui
Jaqui

sums it up nicely.

edglock21
edglock21

I expected to see information on more types of "techies" than just programmers. How about all of the Sys Admins, desktop support, Network Admins, etc. A more descriptive title would have been "10 challenging types of programmers..."

Genera-nation
Genera-nation

Are there no positive tech workers in the world???

bfrankenhoff
bfrankenhoff

There are more PM types that are easy to poke fun at.... time for the balancing opinion.

agilebrainz
agilebrainz

You forgot one. The Chicken Little. These folks see a crisis in every change, usually offer 'No' as their first response to any question, and yet somehow always manage to get what you ask done regardless of their dire predictions. Must be true- I saw it in a Dilbert cartoon.

alessandro.ansa
alessandro.ansa

as a technical author, I'm not quite sure about point 9...

balaji.gp3
balaji.gp3

Dear Gilbert This is Balaji Thanks for your help in advance I need a help regarding how to disable the POST process while booting It takes 1-2 minutes for booting in my personal PC, for most time is consedering for the POST process only so let me now how to disable the POS process Thank you once again. Regards Balaji S.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

for management or sack them depending on how successfully they lose at golf to the boss is the usual solution.

Absolutely
Absolutely

"What are 'Sys Admins, desktop support, Network Admins, etc.'?" The Megalomaniac doesn't know, doesn't care, and doesn't consider its ignorance and apathy to be problems.

PonderousMan
PonderousMan

The title of the post is "challenging" tech workers... In the interest of balance, maybe we need "10 types of stimulating tech workers?" Of course, the idea of many of these lists is to identify problems, and what problems would be solved by such a list? I guess one answer would be, not always putting people in a negative light, eh?

PonderousMan
PonderousMan

The title of the post is "challenging" tech workers... In the interest of balance, maybe we need "10 types of stimulating tech workers?" Of course, the idea of many of these lists is to identify problems, and what problems would be solved by such a list? I guess one answer would be, not always putting people in a negative light, eh?

mcarr
mcarr

It's not about poking fun - I thought the list was quite interesting and recognized people that I work with. You sound a little defensive, so come on - out with it. What number were you? :-)

willjamr
willjamr

As a non-writing tech, I can assure you that working for a tech writer would be severe punishment. (Grounds for a job search)

waqas.uddin
waqas.uddin

try disabling message posting from BIOS setup. I am not sure if posting can be blocked at all... using BIOS you can configure to hide posts behind a system logo or startup picture

Absolutely
Absolutely

of another challenging type of techie...

edglock21
edglock21

It's actually amazing to me how many of these self-centered children are out there. Maybe mommy and daddy didn't hold them when they were young :-)

kennpetty
kennpetty

I have worked with at least on of all the 10 challenging types listed in my 15 years in IT. I don't necessarily agree with all the mitigation strategies (Why punish a tech writer by saddling them with a snotty developer). I have found these "challenging" types, but the majority of techies are inquisitive, passionate and innovative. I would suggest these positive types as well: 1. The evangelizer (s/he learns about new technologies and shares their excitment and knowledge with their colleagues) 2. The collaborator (everyone on the team likes to run ideas past this tech as they always get a better design and more excitement about the solution-they don't always offer ideas but usually draw them out of the other person) 3. The Rock (no matter what needs to be coded- they will take it, deliver it and it will be solid and reliable. They don't complain they code. They love the work and have smaller egos than the "challenging" ones) Give me an Evangelist, a couple collaborators and 5-6 Rocks and I can deliver anything.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Each type also has some positives. Looking at ONLY the negatives, ignores the strengths you can play on to make them LESS problematic. The "Green" programmer might have some new information for the team and will certainly have a perspective uncorrupted by existing paradigms. Ignore the positives, and you ignore the solution.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

when I wasn't a tech as well. You could ask my section leader, but last time I saw him he was stacking shelves in a supermarket. I've no idea whose ass he slurped to get that job either.

Absolutely
Absolutely

Creative management could turn each character's annoying personality traits into positive productivity traits in a dynamic, cooperative team. But that subject is reserved for 300+ page published works. These one-page articles serve a different purpose altogether.

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