Developers are different from other folk. Introverted is an understatement. My four days of silence really highlighted this.
On the first day of my first job in London I was shown to my desk into a open plan office with about 20 other people. My guide Nancy, a rather chatty Londoner, said “Goodbye” and I sat down.
Nobody said “hi”. Nobody even looked at me. This could have been the cold shoulder for an intruder. More likely some of them had just not noticed my existence. For others there was likely a fair bit shyness in the mix as well.
“Interesting”, I thought to myself. I’d previously done quite a lot of reading on the psychology of software developers and saw an opportunity to do an experiment of my own. I decided to see how long the silence would last. How long would it take before somebody in the room spoke to me?
For four days I sat at my new desk doing my work surrounded by 20 other folk doing their work. Occasionally they spoke to each other or to a visitor to the room. This wasn’t a gender thing. There were both men and women working in that room. It was a developer thing.
The only person I spoke during that time to was my technical lead Steve. Now you’d hardly call Steve voluble and, anyway, he sat in a different room and never visited me. I’d always go to him if I wanted to talk something through. When not talking to Steve I went back to my desk and waited.
After four days it seemed they noticed me. Or at least Angela did. She was sitting at the desk next to mine. I remember she turned to me and introduced herself. “Hi. You’re Steven aren’t you. I’m Angela”. Suddenly I existed again. Then gradually other folk began to say “hi” too.
I really like working with developers. They are fantastic. They can do things that other people cannot. But they are, well, odd. And to manage them effectively you’ve got to appreciate their qualities and forgive their foibles. And that often means giving them space to get on with it. A lot of space.