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IT careers for introverts

By computerguy124 ·
This might be a weird question, but does anyone know of any IT careers that are generally geared towards introverts? I work at a help desk, which has turned out to be quite an extraverted job. I'm willing to get more certifications if necessary, but I really need to move to an IT job that doesn't require a customer service personality. I'm finding the social aspect of my job to be more than I can handle. Any ideas out there?

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I second that

by gralfus In reply to Here's a weird answer

When I took a job on help desk back in the early '90s, it was one of the most stretching things I'd ever done. I was always the one picked on in school and didn't see much value in other people, since most were jerks or entirely concerned with their appearance, despite being foul inside. I was so shy I didn't like to talk to people (strangers!) on the phone. So that job helped me greatly in seeing that I really had nothing to fear from others (at least over the phone), and opened up lots of doors for me that I would have only hidden behind before.

Another part of the problem with introversion in IT is that server admins tend to build impenetrable walls around themselves that other departments can't get through, so they are a pain in the arse to deal with. They consider the servers as their own, and develop snippy derogatory attitudes towards others. This doesn't help anyone, and I have seen people fired for just their attitudes, despite having technical competence.

I'm still an introvert, meaning that I charge my battery by being alone. I can spend the whole day alone and be fine, though I do eventually get lonely. Extroverts feed off of being around other people. It has taken over 10 years, but I eventually became sociable enough to get married and to even teach English to immigrants (some of whom have become our best friends).

So let the conditions of the job stretch you for at least a few years. You will find benefits later from it.

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Great insight

by amcol In reply to I second that

Your entire post is a valuable addition to the discussion but you said two things in particular that bear reinforcement.

"When I took a job on help desk back in the early '90s, it was one of the most stretching things I'd ever done." The problem with most people is that they're perfectly content staying deeply ensconsed in their comfort zones. Good for you that you took a chance on yourself...that's where real growth comes from, both professional and personal. You didn't know when you took the job if you'd succeed or not, but you pressed on anyway. I'm delighted it did work out for you, and what you certainly know by now that either way you would have won. (If it turned out that you were truly miserable in the job you would have learned something valuable about yourself and taken action accordingly.)

"I'm still an introvert, meaning that I charge my battery by being alone." No one can get a personality transplant. We are what we are, but that doesn't mean we can't learn to move almost effortlessly between situations with enough experience and confidence under our belts. After all this time and everything I've been through I'm exactly the same way...I'm more comfortable with my own company than that of others. But, like you, I've learned how to operate comfortably in groups and how to interact competently with other people. What I prefer when I go home at the end of the day is my business.

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Here's a good read...

by curious_susan In reply to Here's a weird answer
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You've missed the point

by amcol In reply to Here's a good read...

Both of what I said in my post and the article.

No one can get a personality transplant. We are what we are. That's not to say we're unable to deal better or more effectively with who and what we are, and by extension with other people and life in general.

As a lifelong card carrying member of Introverts Anonymous, the "us" you refer to includes me. I know what I'm talking about here.

No doubt there are those who are so painfully shy and as a consequence so socially maladjusted and inept that they're beyond conventional assistance. We have a tendency as a society to go to extremes, to a large extent because we're taught to do so by the media. Those people who lock themselves in their rooms, crawl under the bed, and read the label on the box spring until they feel better are one end of the spectrum. Those who stand on mountaintops and blare out every last excrutiatingly intimate specific minor no-one-cares detail of their lives for all the world to know are the other end.

For the overwhelming majority of those of us in the middle things are different. Extroverts can learn to understand and deal better with introverts. Introverts can learn to understand and deal better with themselves, and therefore by extension with others. No one's suggesting you "turn into something else". But that doesn't mean you can't learn behaviors and thought processes that may be opposite your innate nature.

The whole idea is to be the best you you can be. Is there something wrong with that?

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Personal Growth - My Answer

by 94mssilver94 In reply to You've missed the point

I love this thread because it encourages tech folks to
grow and expand into balanced full people. Co-
workers don't have to like each other, but they do have
to cooperate and work together, or the ripple effect can
be negative on the business and the bottom line.

I come from an intellectually oriented family where little
was taught or known about getting along with others. I
had few skills for "playing well with others," and less
interest in doing so of my own accord.

But I didn't have successful reltationships anywhere,
and that was unacceptable to me. I always believed it
didn't have to be this way; there was a better way. I
have now learned that it didn't have to be that way for
me. I spent many years reaching out for help in many
forms and varieties ( therapy, 12-Step Programs, life
coaches, etc. ) -- anything that worked I stuck with until
my life and my attitudes, and then my relationships
began to transform.

My 40 yrs of work experience have shown me that more
technical and service problems crop up on job and are
then transmitted to customers are due to lack of
effective interpersonal skills in the work place than due
to any other causes. It's the people, to me that are
generally the cause and the answer to problems.

I've seen many, too many, well-meaning, highly trained
and educated people tank careers and jobs because
they had ineffective strategies for dealing with
themselves and as a result, were unable to interact with
co-workers and employers in productive ways. I was
one of them.

I am an optimist at heart; I had to be as I had been
taught no skills for working together w/others. Today I
believe that to learn to get along with others is one of
the most, if not the most, important skill I need as an
employee, employer and co-worker. I need to work on
this on a moment-by-moment basis with the idea in
mind to improve my past last performance, and to keep
my learned skills sharp and in focus.

Everything that a business does to sustain itself and
grow is based on people; we are the one constant in
the equation from the initial idea to the administration of
the revenues. So, when the business is off track, I look
to the people first to see what's going on there. And, I
have found that the little things, like speaking in civil
tones and having patience with others, can start
patterns that foster positive outcomes and can make a
huge difference in settings where things seem to be off

And, for you Alpha, and macho oriented business folks
who may think this interpersonal stuff and getting along
with others is "fluff," and chick stuff, I challenge you to
try it and see first what it does to the "bottom line," as
well as for your relationships with co-workers and
others before you dismiss this suggestion as irrelevant.

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You mentioned Alpha, how about this?

by CampbellsMan In reply to Personal Growth - My Answ ...

For somebody wanting to get out of their shell it can be nearly impossible...

I know you mentioned Alpha in a different context, but here is a potential solution....

Firstly myself previously when surrounded by lots of people, especialy if I don't know then and/or I am required to interact. I can find that my heart rate increases to a very uncomfotable level (which I then worry about sending me further into myself), I cannot get words out, I start to sweat, I feel sick, and even start to get confused and loose track of conversation? once in that state it can take me a good 30/60 mins to recover, I suppose it's a sort of panic...

Nowadays I have no problem realy, how you can get around this is to practice in these situations without actualy being there by using your alpha state of mind and visualising it.

Because you are not actauly there it doesn't bother you, you can run through a whole meeting(or whatever). The more you practice the less it affects you in real life until you can actauly cope, then again through practice in reality or alpha state increases your abilities...

A good example of how to do this which worked for me is Silva Ultramind, I bought a copy of this on ebay for ?15...

Good Luck


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Great article

by beads In reply to Here's a good read...

Having worked in DP/IS/IT for more than a quarter of century I can say that the article really hit home for me.

Many folks in my IT generation. Don't kid yourself, IT has many short generations, almost stereotypes of generations. Each has its own approach to all things IT related. So, 'my IT generation' would be catagorized as almost exclusively filled with introverted males who were the 'nerds' of the late 70s and early 80s. As a collective group we couldn't care less about the world around us save IBM mainframes and that new fangled 'PC'. Though we hardly thought that Ashton-Tate's DB II would ever go away.

It was very different back then. You could be allowed to do your IT thing in a closet and no one would care. End users were deathly afraid of computers and treated techs like we belonged to some sort of meta-physical priesthood or secret society.

Business practices and competitiveness changed a good deal of that along with the 'new world order' imposed on us by Bush, Senior.

Now, that does not mean that you can't still be an introvert. I am a prime example, myself. If I don't have my alone time. Things can get a bit cranky. Don't mind people but also know that I need people to succeed in life and business. Otherwise, I'd rather be by myself to: Think; comptimplate and analyze everything around me - especially office politics.

Traditionally the more introverted types have stayed twoard programming and development. Though I agree with the article (wholeheartedly!) its not always going to be pragmatic to strictly follow that advice unless your managing introverts.

What the article is missing is the balance portion of applying the advice to the real world. Its only pragmatic to learn to put yourself in situations where you have to stretch a bit. Become comfortable with dealing with groups and individuals as seamlessly as tying your shoes. Then make sure the introvert gets some alone time. Hence the balance part.

As far as your question above and does it apply to yourself? Well, you need to find the best situation for yourself. I see two possibilities. First, a small/medium business could work if you can find a place where the non-IT folks aren't all that crazy about learning every last item of tech work and will leave you alone. They are still out there but you probably won't be challenged much either.

A large corporation may be better suited if your willing to forego the spotlight a bit, keep your head down and do your work. Problem there is you won't exactly be on the fast track to anywhere or get the big annual raises. You'll be a 'solid performer', a 'good soldier' and nothing more. Though this approach has some promise if you can use it to your overall advantage by using the time to hone your communication skills by doing things like Toastmasters, Rotary or some other socializing club that will help with your communication skills.

The reality of todays IT market now requires us to be more than just techs. Though I and many others lament being behind the curtain of obscurity or the alter of IT (come pray at the alter of IT and we may grant your wish). A good deal of that has changed for better or worse, as the saying goes.

Keep up the good introvertness. I have. I am. And will continue to do so though it hasn't really hurt me in the long run. I just fake being extroverted as my public mask.

Hope that helps!

- beads

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by stan In reply to Here's a weird answer

Why develop skills doing things that you don't want to do?

I'm not particularly shy, and have no problem dealing with people, but its usually a waste of time and I much prefer working alone. I'm far, far more productive and happier. So I arranged things so that I can work on what I want, when I want, with a minimum of distractions.

It can be done.

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Sometimes you have no choice

by amcol In reply to Why?

I'm glad for you that you've found a lifestyle and professional direction that makes you happy.

This thread is about introversion, but what you describe is something else. I don't want this to sound mean-spirited, I'm just making a long distance sound a bit anti-social, perhaps by choice or as a result of some unfortunate experience. You're entitled to be any way you want to be.

However, you've apparently chosen to not develop or practice interpersonal skills. If that works for you, OK...but what happens if an irresistable, can't pass it up opportunity comes along that requires these skills? You won't be able to develop them on the fly, they take a lot of practice. Are you willing to pay that price?

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You always have a choice

by stan In reply to Sometimes you have no cho ...

And I didn't find a lifestyle/professional direction, I created it.

I started as a junior electronic technition (many years ago) and worked my way up to Chief Engineer and eventually VP for Research and Development and Chief Technical Officer.

At a certain level you find that you are spending all your time working with accountants, lawyers, marketing execs, etc. and have no time for working on the things you really enjoy doing.

People go into IT because they prefer working with machines rather than with people. That doesn't mean that they don't have any "people skills". Some do, and some don't. Many introverts have good social skills, but just prefer working with things. I'm no different.

Most IT careers are good choices for introverted personalities. The help desk is an exception, since all you do there is interact with people. From my experience, the best position is development since you get to work with technology much more than with people.

You do have a choice. You can try many different positions with different size companies until you find one that is perfect for you. Or, if that job doesn't exist, create it. Make your second full time job finding and getting your perfect job. Most people are unsure what they really want and settle for a job thats not too bad and never reach their full potential.

The choice I made was to get out of managment completely (I hated spending 35 hours or more a week in tedious meetings.) Then I made up my perfect job. One that matched my skills and personal preferences exactly. Then I built a company around what I wanted to do. And found a partner with skills that complimented my own exactly.
So we are both doing exactly what we want, having fun, and making more money than at any other time in my life. We decided to keep this company small and regularly turn away business (since we are doing what we love, we are very good at it). The only people I will hire are completely self motivated, who can take a project and complete it, and only bother me if there is a problem.

So, back to the original thread, just about any IT job would be better for an introvert than the help desk. Look more toward development and less toward support. Try a variety of jobs to find what you like best (broad experience is always valuable). Then define exactly what you want and don't stop until you get it. If getting what you want requires a creative solution, go for it.

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