Becoming a Better Developer Part 8: Know Your Archetype

Developers come in many shapes and sizes, but over the years I’ve noticed a handful of archetypes that we tend to embody. These archetypes are the fundamental building blocks of who we are as developers, and two to three of them exist in each of us in varying quantities. I’ve worked with a few people who were 90% in a single area.

The archetypes are:

  • Trainer/Author – spends the majority of his/her time teaching, training, writing articles and books, and otherwise helping others learn how to program.
  • Coder – a hard-core developer. Into design patterns, the next cool and experimental language constructs, and talking about web service proxy generators.
  • Lead – excellent organization skills, driven to make projects succeed, and skilled at leading others.
  • Technologist – into all the new applications; would rather integrate than write code.

Take a minute to decide which two or three describe you best, and make a guess at the percentage of each. A trusted co-worker can easily verify or dispute your numbers. It’s not an exact science.

I’m 45% Coder, 35% Trainer/Author, and 20% Lead. However in my current position I tend to do a lot more Lead-based tasks with some Coder stuff thrown in. I’ve been doing the Trainer/Author portion in my spare time for the past several years.

The benefit of knowing your archetype is three-fold:

  • Career Path – Realizing that you love to teach might make you think twice about taking a promotion requiring you to manage other developers in a deadline-driven environment. Similarly, if you are a technologist you might think about leaving your job as a corporate developer and applying at a product company where your desires could be more easily fulfilled.
  • Strengths & Weaknesses – Knowing your strengths is critical to your career happiness. I realized long ago that I have very little desire to be a technologist, which, in retrospect,. explained my distaste for every integration project I’d ever worked on. As a result when it comes time to volunteer for project roles I’m on the other side of the room when people start talking about Biztalk.
  • Your USP – Though the term “Unique Selling Proposition” (USP) typically applies to products, it can be applied to people. The idea is to find what differentiates you from the alternatives. Why should a company hire you (whether for full-time, contract, or consulting work)? There are hundreds of seemingly qualified candidates – what do you bring to the table that no one else does? Now is the time to specialize, so whatever your strong archetypes, focus on them and make your focus razor sharp. Make it so there is no competition.

Remember that no area is better than any other. I used to be intimidated by people who knew more than I did about software development until I realized that I had the edge in the areas of writing and leadership. It’s not that my percentages made me better or worse than that developer, it’s just a way of realizing that we each have strengths in certain areas.

Feel free to post your percentages in the comments.

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1 comment so far ↓

#1 Warren on 01.03.06 at 8:13 pm

Software engineers have logorrhea. There is no other class of techies that pontificates as much or as often as software developers. There is something about us that makes us think we know much more than we do. And we are so dang proud. Those of us who are managers don’t say so, they write as coders, not managers.