Why I Love Engineers (Courtesy of Marc Andreesen, Founder of Netscape)

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“…[T]he interior mentality of the engineer…is very truth-oriented. When you’re dealing with machines or anything that you build, it either works or it doesn’t, no matter how good a salesman you are. So engineers not only don’t care about the surface appearance, but they view attempts to kind of be fake on the surface as fundamentally dishonest.

[In the movie, “The Social Network,”] Aaron Sorkin was completely unable to understand the actual psychology of Mark [Zuckerberg] or of Facebook. He can’t conceive of a world where social status or getting laid or, for that matter, doing drugs, is not the most important thing.”

-Marc Andreessen, New York Times Magazine, July 10, 2011


11 Comments »

11 Comments

  1. Tom Rhoads on 13.07.2011 at 07:36 (Reply)

    Q: How can you tell if an engineer is an extrovert or an introvert?

    A: If he is looking at YOUR shoes when he talks to you then he is an extrovert (an introvert looks at his own shoes when he talks to you).

  2. Susan Cain on 13.07.2011 at 07:57 (Reply)

    Andreessen is an introvert, according to Wired magazine…

    And, btw, I have heard the same joke about people from Finland!

  3. Poppy on 13.07.2011 at 12:44 (Reply)

    Gordon Bell at Microsoft is working on wearable computing, where it literally records everything around you all the time — video, your conversations.

    OMG. This sounds absolutely horrible. I need another planet to live on before this becomes trendy. Look, we can all relive my awkward interpersonal conversations over and over again.

  4. Nate on 13.07.2011 at 13:26 (Reply)

    Susan,

    I’m really enjoying your blog. The below quote is interesting:

    “So engineers not only don’t care about the surface appearance, but they view attempts to kind of be fake on the surface as fundamentally dishonest.”

    I’m curious, do many introverts (not just engineers) you’ve encountered generally perceive extroverts this way? I ask because I have admittedly less trust in extroverts for precisely this reason. When I encounter such a person, I often think that someone is trying too hard to “sell” themselves. They are SO outwardly “gushing” (either verbally or in appearance) that it just HAS to be an act - they aren’t “real”. There is an inverse relationship to the amount of their extroverted “flamboyance” and the sincerity that I attribute to them. Conversely, If I meet someone who is dressed down and subdued I almost immediately have a higher degree of trust in them.

    I had an introverted co-worker who would wear shirts to work that he just bought right off the shelf - with the big vertical ribbon sticker “size L L L” right down the front and still in place. He never even noticed it in the mirror - loved the guy. He was real - and an engineer.

    1. Susan Cain on 13.07.2011 at 14:05 (Reply)

      That’s a really interesting question, Nate. What you’re identifying is I think not so much a difference between introverts and extroverts as between “high self-monitors” and “low self-monitors.” High self-monitors pay more attention to social expectations — when they’re in Rome they do as the Romans do. They are also more likely to tell white lies to make others feel good. Low self-monitors are guided more by their own internal compass and pay relatively less attention to social norms — like your guy with the X large t-shirt. Both styles have their pros and cons, as you can tell even from this short description.

      More extroverts are HSMs and more introverts are LSMs, but there are plenty of introverted HSMs and extroverted LSMs too. This is a fascinating subject, actually — I’m going to do a blog post on it soon!

  5. Eliza on 13.07.2011 at 13:57 (Reply)

    “So engineers not only don’t care about the surface appearance, but they view attempts to kind of be fake on the surface as fundamentally dishonest.”

    Somebody doesn’t know engineers very well! I am an engineer at a medium sized engineering company, and have been for over 10 years now (not always the same company). Engineers are no more likely to be sincere than accountants or gardeners. There are many glib, facile engineers who will smile to your face and stab you in the back, and there are many other engineers who fall for these insincere backstabbers every day.

    1. Susan Cain on 13.07.2011 at 14:07 (Reply)

      Interesting, Eliza. What do you think of Andreessen’s take on “The Social Network?” I loved the movie as a piece of storytelling, but suspected that it did very little to illuminate the true Mark Zuckerberg.

  6. Eliza on 13.07.2011 at 14:00 (Reply)

    Moreover:

    [In the movie, “The Social Network,”] Aaron Sorkin was completely unable to understand the actual psychology of Mark [Zuckerberg] or of Facebook. He can’t conceive of a world where social status or getting laid or, for that matter, doing drugs, is not the most important thing.”

    Has Marc forgotten why Mark developed Facebook? To rate girls by how hot they were (hello, FACE-book). If that isn’t about social status or getting laid, I don’t know what is!

    Marc, Marc, you innocent babe in the woods. Susan, you too.

    1. Susan Cain on 13.07.2011 at 14:13 (Reply)

      Well, you know, I don’t know the actual Mark Zuckerberg from Adam, but I can easily imagine someone who likes building things doing so based on the currency he sees all around him. He might still be motivated more by the love of building the thing.

      It was the nose-pressed-up-against-the-elite-Finals-Clubs aspect of the movie that struck me as most implausible.

  7. David C. on 15.07.2011 at 06:31 (Reply)

    I’m a mechanical designer and I peg the introvert meter. I’ve worked with engineers all my working life and I find them only slightly less extroverted than the general population.

    Perhaps my view on this is colored by seeing anyone more extroverted than I am (nearly everyone) as an extrovert.

    Anyway, I like the blog and can’t wait for the book.

  8. Tim Larison on 16.07.2011 at 08:29 (Reply)

    I was a software engineer for 20 years before leaving that field to become a travel agent, and the difference in the basic personality type in these two fields is striking. I remember one technical conference I went to where we had a lunch break. I sat with a group of 10 engineers. Not one word was spoken the entire lunch. We were all in our own introvert worlds.

    Now I go to travel conferences, and the typical travel agent is an extrovert. If I sit at a table of 10 travel agents we’ll all be talking about our favorite trips, how we got in the business, etc.

    I remember going to one travel conference where the speaker was giving advice on how to run an agency. “Don’t hire introverts!” he said. “You want agents who relate to people well.” Now that remark made me do a slow burn inside. At the time I was one of my agency’s most successful agents, and an introvert. Being an introvert doesn’t mean we can’t relate to people.

    I think my introverted, engineering “truth-oriented” skills help me in what is primarily an extroverted field (travel sales). Clients value my objective views on what the best vacation options are for them, without trying to “up sell” them into something they really don’t need. Also in travel it is important to get all the details right, and my engineering skills are a big asset there.

    So I think an introvert can be successful in an extroverted profession because of the “truth-oriented” qualities Marc Andreessen mentions, and vice versa. When I was an engineer I worked with some extroverts who weren’t as technically skilled as their introvert colleagues, but they were good managers.

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