Have you ever talked to a software developer? You know that nerdy guy sitting in the corner of the office with his headphones on writing mystical commands very fast on his keyboard?
It’s very common that us, software developers, are introverts and instead of talking would like to concentrate on programming. I am software developer myself and I can see introvert side of me popping out from time to time while I try my best to hide it in most situations. Talking for introverts is not an easy thing to do but really necessary especially if they have to meet with a customer or present in stressful situations like for a large audience.
If you haven’t noticed, it’s not easy to talk with a person who doesn’t answer or doesn’t express their opinion. With software developers this might be the case if you are talking about something else than some technical, programming related things. In fact, when talking about software development with software developers you can see some of them opening up and then it’s really hard to stop them going on — especially if the topic is very dear for the developer. If you’re not in software industry and know a somewhat shy developer, I encourage you to try this out.
What makes this interesting is that it’s really essential to have good communication methods and skills in software development. Passing information about specifications, requirements, bugs in the code etc. is really crucial for the developer, the product and the business. There must be strong common understanding between the requester and the one actually doing the work. Otherwise you might end up with bad or even completely wrong solution for the problem at hand.
Many times information is lost no matter what communication method is used. To be sure all necessary information is known to people you should ask questions or test them otherwise. This might be difficult especially if the audience is large.
Among developers there is A LOT of silent information that is not shared anywhere. Problem with this information is that it’s only known to an individual or at best, a small group. There are communication methods that allow sharing this kind of information but the problem is that they are rarely used correctly or at all. Especially developers are often not willing to share their knowledge to public at least inside business they are working at — after all, their knowledge is the reason they are paid.
I have seen, and also been, in a situation where person is about to leave his/hers current team and last task is to write everything they know somewhere. This shouldn’t be the way to do things but instead all developers should be encouraged to keep up data in some location for all crucial information others might need. Especially developers in key positions should be active with this because of the well-known Bus factor.
While talking may not be the best way to communicate with software developer (of course depends on the person), there are multiple other ways to do this:
These are some of the most used systems for communication used among developers. Most of them have some problems and can be overused which can lead to spending time on totally unnecessary things. If you can invent one to tackle all the listed problems I think you would become a millionaire.
Interruptions, as you may know, are the worst thing you can introduce to a developer at work. According to one study it can take up to 25 minutes to get back to task after an interruption. This can cause significant losses to the business and is also very frustrating for the developers. In the longer run constant interruptions can decrease job satisfaction and cause even more damage in ones performance.
Personally I prefer communication methods that do not create an immediate interruption while still notifying the receiver about new content. Of course sometimes instant messages are necessary but one should always think twice before using them — especially if the receiver is in deep “flow” state. Even a simple questions over IM, phone call or by talking can create interruption that will take minutes to overcome. Please try to remember this if your matter is not urgent and you don’t need answer straight away.
Superlative for introvert developer must be FINNISH DEVELOPER. Many of you might know that us Finns are not the most talkative nation. Mix that with being a software developer and you have person that doesn’t talk much but when he/she does, you really should listen.
Most important thing is that you communicate, no matter what method you use. What comes to the methods you should really try out different things and agree together what works and what doesn’t. Also try to avoid unnecessary interruptions as they will cost you a lot of time (=money).
I am also interested if you have seen problems in communication and what has been your solution to those. Please leave me a response!
I am Heikki Hellgren, Software developer and technology enthusiast working at Elektrobit Automotive. My interests are in software construction, tools, automatic testing and all the new and cool stuff like AI and autonomous driving. You can follow me on Medium and Twitter. Also you can check out my website for more information.