Yin meets yang
Blog Authors: Valerie Skinner 060000VKGS is part of the IBM developerWorks team, getting to know the real developers who make up the My developerWorks community and exploring the world of social networking. I'm enjoying learning what makes developers tick! I'm very interested in exploring online communities and social media and understanding real world application - how they can help people solve problems and work together.
This week get to know a new member of My developerWorks in this interview with Brian Benz. He's an XML enthusiast who's also a blogger, author, and entrepreneur. Learn more about Brian in the interview below and you can also find more about him here: Brian's My developerWorks profile - Blog - Twitter
What was your first job?
I started work quite young - my first job was at 14 working in a ski shop installing bindings and lots of maintenance work that ski shops don’t do anymore due to product improvements. Is that far enough off topic?
How did you get started in the IT industry?
I always had an interest in computers. My first computer was a commodore 64 with a cassette drive. In 1980/81 I developed a few functions on an Apple II using Applesoft basic, but that was just a hobby. My first real paid tech job was in London, UK, in the early 80’s programming and maintaining business functions on IBM System 32, 34 and 38. In my spare time I started automating some tedious manual tasks on what was an unused novelty in the office at the time - an original IBM PC using Lotus 1-2-3 and dBase. The more I worked on the PC, the faster I could do my job, and the more spare time I had to figure out how to automate more tasks – I was hooked!
What are you currently working on?
Several client projects, building some XML, Lotus Notes and Data Analytics products, setting up 2 new companies and Web sites (http://www.benztech.com and http://www.datavida.com), creating a new XML format for sharing unstructured data (http://www.udml.org), and working on an update to the XML Programming Bible.
What's the most fun project you've worked on?
Definitely creating UDML. It’s nice to work with a clean slate and do something that you think could make life easier for a lot of people.
What are a few of your favorite development tools and why?
The absolute best tools I’ve ever worked with are the Altova suite of tools, especially XMLSpy (http://www.altova.com) . Anyone who works with XML, SOA, or even standards-compliant Web content development should try these tools and see why for themselves. Other than that, Eclipse tools are what I work with the most, plus Microsoft Visual Studio, SharePoint Designer, InfoPath, and IBM Lotus Domino Designer.
Are you a gadget person? What type of gadgets do you use?
Not a gadget person per se, but I love my iPhone. The apps and music functions let me connect to my music library, friends, social networks, and the Web in ways that I haven’t with other phones. It’s actually changed my life in a few ways, all for the positive.
How do you use developerWorks?
Mostly to connect with my fellow developers and share tips and advice. Like most geeks these days, I don’t know everything, but I know where I can find everything quickly. developerWorks is definitely one of the resources I use to learn quickly when I need to.
Are you a blogger? Author? On Twitter?
My blog is Software Soapbox at http://ww.softwaresoapbox.com.
I’ve published three books - one for IBM and two for Wiley. Also many magazine articles and presentations. My full list of publications can be found at my personal Web site at http://brianbenz.com
I’m also on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/brianbenz, on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bbenz , FaceBook at http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Benz/1412015686, and FriendFeed at http://friendfeed.com/bbenz.
What are some of your favorite Twitter accounts to follow?
It’s a mix of tech, local news, and fun. Aside from @developerworks, I also follow @craignewmark, @davewiner, @forkflylasvegas, @edbrill, @cnnbrk, @WholeFoods, @jowyang, @dsearls, @TechCrunch, @CaesarsPalace, @happn_in_vegas, @xbrlblog
For the past few years, I've been thinking of myself as a "knowledge worker" in the "knowledge economy". All workers have their blessings and their discontents whether in the agricultural or industrial age or now - the knowledge economy. I'm glad that I get to use my mind, while I'm also sometimes grumpy about sitting at a computer while my hands and brain do all the work. (Btw, I think someone needs to invent a way of working with computers that involves a variety of movements - some fusion of ideas behind Nintendo wii and work that people do on computers, so that instead of it being natural to sit still while we work, it feels more natural and it's more possible, to move.)
But recently it struck me that I'm not so much a "knowledge worker" as I am a "creativity worker". What I do everyday isn't so much about what I know - it's about what I do with what I know - and what I don't know and finding the answers. What questions do I have? What ideas do I have? What instincts? What problems? What could be done better? What experiments might I try? And then talking with fellow "creativity workers" to get the idea soup boiling before we decide on something new to try. Then we go off and try it and analyze, measure, and revise along the way, over and over.
To be a successful creativity worker I must do things well, on time, and as committed. This is all fine and good, but it's not good enough if I don't come up with new things to do and new ways to do old things. So creativity is one of my greatest assets. But I often find myself jammed up with tasks and trivia - lines and lines of email, hours of meetings, at the end of which my brain is mush and my creativity drained.
My greatest challenge is to protect, nurture and harness my creativity. How? It's still a struggle and I'm learning, but these are my ideas:
vskinner 060000VKGS Tags:  people_skills work_relationships myers-briggs personality 6 Comments 2,902 Visits
If you know me for any length of time, the question is bound to come up. Out of the blue, I’ll ask you, “So, do you know what your Myers-Briggs personality type is?”. It’s kind of nosy when you think about it, but I’m a little Myers-Briggs obsessed. I find people fascinating – I’m always trying to understand them – and me – a little better. Just so you know, if I ask you your type, I’ve probably already been trying to figure out what type you are anyway. I’m just looking for confirmation.
That fits right into my personality by the way. I’m an INFJ
That fits right into my personality by the way. I’m an INFJ
- which has been nicknamed “The Contemplator.” Truer words have never been said. That’s me for sure. And that’s what has been so surprising for me about Myers-Briggs typing - how well my type describes me – and my friends and family too.
You may be one of those people who says “Don’t put me in a box” and I sympathize! No personality test can capture all the facets of a unique human being and sometimes you don’t fit exactly into one bucket or another, but with sixteen separate Myers-Briggs types, they can capture quite a bit of nuance.
So what does personality have to do with work? How can understanding personality help you on the job? As much as I’m a fan of Myers-Briggs in particular, I think understanding personality and improving the way you work with people isn’t about sticking a label on each other. Whether you ever take a personality test or not, you can still benefit from some basic ideas
The first and most critical principle: Accept that people are different. They see things and approach things differently. And accept that it’s okay that everyone’s not like you and they don’t all have to be like you. Stop trying to change them to be like you and meet them where they’re at.If you apply nothing else, this one thing can improve your interactions with people you work with, your kids, your spouse, your friends, and random strangers.
At work, for instance, some people are chatty, some withdrawn. Some people like to meet in person, face to face, some like to talk on the phone, others email, or instant message. Some people like to draw things out on a white board, or talk out a problem, others like to think things through by themselves. Some people like processes, routines and definitions, others hate them and like to keep things loose. Some people like shiny, pretty presentations, others think only the value of the content matters and see packaging as artifice.
I could go on describing the ways we’re different, but you get the idea. The evidence is clear – people are different.
But, if you accept that people are different, you can expect it, learn from it and use it to your advantage. You can start to improve outcomes by adjusting the way you work with different people. And you can even start to see it as an asset – a good thing. All our strengths and weaknesses can complement each other.
I’ll be talking more about applying personality in the workplace in future blog posts so, if you haven't done so already, subscribe to my RSS feed. I’ll talk about:
Know thyself – understanding what makes you tick
vskinner 060000VKGS Tags:  personal_growth personality career_development personality_test 5 Comments 3,001 Visits
In my first post on "Personality on the job", I talked about the first principle - Accepting that people are different! The second principle is "Know yourself".
A relationship is a two-way interaction, and you are one half of that interaction. It does no good to merely observe and understand others, if you don't understand the role you are playing too. One way to get to know yourself is to take a personality test. There are many out there, and I'll include a list at the bottom of my post. But taking a personality test isn't required - start by looking in the mirror!
Here are some questions to help you explore who you are on the job:
Cut yourself some slack
Remember the first principle was accepting that people are different? Now, accept that you are different. You can change some things about yourself, and probably should, but many things are just the way you're hardwired. Don't fight it - work with it.
For example... I work with people alot, but I'm an introvert and I can get worn out. As much as I wish this wasn't the case - but it is, so I have to work with it and schedule in down time when I'm not in meetings.
Make the most of what you've got
Once you understand basic things about yourself, you can start to put those to use. If you enjoy working on the start of a project, conceiving it in the brainstorming phase - try to find areas where you can apply that. If you're passionate about perfecting things with testing and trouble-shooting, look for opportunities to do that. If working on detailed reports drives you nuts and slows you down, see if you can pass that on to another team member who eats spreadsheets for lunch.
For example... I've discovered, I enjoy analyzing data. That might sound dry to you, but as a kid, I loved Nancy Drew books, and I think something about putting together puzzles and playing the detective gets me going! So I volunteer to do a little data analysis when the need comes up.
Know your hot buttons - then cool down
We all have hot buttons that short circuit logic and go straight to our gut. They might make us feel frustrated, angry, or deflated. Many times, these hot buttons aren't serious, just the kind of thing that irks you because of your particular personality! Unfortunately, the instant emotions hot buttons evoke can cause a meltdown over something minor. Pinpoint your hot buttons, so that when they get triggered, you can remind yourself that this isn't worth arguing about - it's just a personality quirk.
For example... Years ago, I received a flaming ALL CAPS email that was very pushy and critical and it seemed the entire universe was copied on it. I felt like I was being run over with a bulldozer. I received wise advice to just pick up the phone and talk to the person, instead of trying to defend myself in email. Looking back, I can see that this is just the way this person dealt with everyone - it wasn't directed especially at me. And since I now recognize I can be thin-skinned, when things like this happen again, I don't take a forceful style personally and get upset - just focus on solving the problem.
Want to get to know yourself better? Here are three free online personality tests:
4 question personality test (for those of you short on time...)
Keirsey Temperament Sorter
HumanMetrics Jung Typology Test
When introverts and extroverts meet strange things can happen. They may end up completely misunderstanding each other. Or they may end up a powerful pair - after all, one talks a lot and one listens a lot - if that's not a match made in heaven, what is? But if you're not aware of the dynamics in play you may find yourself irritated by others differences or misunderstanding them.
What about you? Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
You might be an extrovert if...
Now, what about the people you work with? Are they introverts or extroverts?
You can't necessarily know just by looking whether someone is introverted or extroverted, because it's not about their external social interactions, but about how they get their energy - whether they get energy from within, being by themselves or from without, being with others. But you often have clues...
In the extreme, extroverts often seem chatty, talkative, energetic, open, outgoing, uninhibited. They may like to work in a group and meet face to face to talk things through. Introverts may appear to be shy, reserved, quiet, thoughtful and serious. They may like to work alone and meet with others only when necessary.
Now, once you understand where you fit and more about the people you're working with, how can you work better together?
Working with extroverts:
My personal experiences...
I am an introvert. Others have had the impression that I am shy or stuck up and as a child I was nicknamed "bookworm". Here are some of the things on the job I've discovered that help me out. My work is often full of interpersonal interaction. Sometimes I am overwhelmed and need to regroup. I try to include downtime to think things through. I also try to balance out my workload during the day and the week - so if I have many meetings I also spend time doing solitary work that involves things like writing or number-crunching. I'm learning to be more comfortable not forcing myself to come up with an answer when I'm put on the spot, but instead to say "Let me think about that and get back to you". I find I do better in meetings when I'm prepared for them ahead of time, so if I'm leading a meeting, I put together an agenda, so I can stay focused. I enjoy working with extroverts I've encountered, but it helps to recognize and accept their unique differences. I'm prepared when I'm talking with certain people, for the conversation to be a little longer and range a little further afield, but knowing that in advance makes it easier for me.
What about you? Are you an introvert or extrovert? How does it affect your style at work?
Do you like things open or closed? This is the essence of "Perceiving" vs. "Judging", one of the dimensions in understanding personality in Keirsey or Myers-Briggs types. This preference can have a powerful effect on your working relationships. I should know - I'm a judger, and my husband a perceiver, and it makes for an interesting dynamic, but it certainly helps to recognize our differences. If you don't know what your preference is or you can't spot it in the people you work with, it can lead to misunderstanding.
What about you? Are you a perceiver or a judger?
You might be an perceiver if...
Perceivers often seem easygoing and casual and they may have a distaste for anything resembling structure, bureaucracy, processes and deadlines. Perceivers often think about long-range implications and imagine possible pitfalls. A perceiver might bring up every possibility in meetings - "What if this happened? Have you thought about this? Have we looked into this? Isn't so and so doing something just like this- we should check with them?". In their exploration of possibilities, they may overlook critical actions. Perceivers often work well when spontaneously rolling with the punches, jumping from one task to the next without a clear plan.
Judgers are often naturals when it comes to project management because they prefer to have clear plans and deadlines. Judgers often think about short-term actions and defining next steps. A judger often pushes for closure in meetings - they want to know "What's the goal? What's the measurement? What's our time line? Who's going to do what?" In their push for closure, they may miss broader implications. Judgers need everything mapped out before they begin working on it.
Now, once you understand where you fit and more about the people you're working with, how can you work better together?
Working with perceivers:
My personal experiences...
I am a judger. I don't have a label maker, but I make a to-do list at least once a day, even on weekends. I hate being late and I know what time it is even without a watch. I like to know exactly where I'm aiming. I get frustrated when things are confusing. Here are some of the things on the job I've discovered that help me out. Because I have such a strong drive for closure and definition, I've learned I have to temper it and balance it. If I'm working on a project with other people, my first inclination may be to define the actions and the owners and move on, and I might get frustrated when a perceiver in the group starts bringing up all the exceptions and problems and what ifs. But I'm learning that if I don't stop and listen, not only am I riding rough shod over a valuable team member, I'm also missing out on valuable information! So I'm learning to allow time in my schedule for this kind of open discussion and debate before getting down to brass tacks.
For me, again, my goal is to make the most of my strengths and other people's as well and try not to impose my personal style and preferences on everyone else! While judgers help move things forward, they can often move things forward in the wrong direction just to keep things moving! Perceivers provide the counterweight and they are always there to keep watching, commenting and critiquing to make sure the direction is right. Sometimes that means a new observation or concern raised by a perceiver completely up-ends a plan already defined by a judger, but if you keep your perspective, you can see how we complement each other.
What about you? Are you a judger or perceiver? How does it affect your style at work?
Send your birthday wishes to developerWorks... add your birthday message here
IBM developerWorks is celebrating 10 years of IT leadership on September 28, 2009.
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vskinner 060000VKGS Tags:  social_media fun social_networking personality 4 Comments 5,555 Visits
I've always found Carl Jung's archetypes to be fascinating. As I've been trolling around lately in the social networking universe, I've observed some archetypes myself and thought I'd share! Let me know what you think! Do you identify with any of these?
Social Networking Archetypes
You're like a sponge soaking up information all the time and you like to share that information with other people! You blog and tweet often. It may be short and to the point but you keep it coming because you like to keep up with current events and strike while the iron is hot.
Make the most of your archetype: Embrace your strength and do what you love. Other people are looking for that timely information you provide. But consider learning from the Friend and the Personality archetypes to add a little warmth and color to your social networking.
You might be fun, sarcastic, witty, or brainy. But whatever you are let's face it... you've got Personality with a capital 'P'. You have a way of expressing yourself that's unique, and you're not afraid to put yourself out there. People like to follow you not just because of information you provide but the spin you put on it. It helps if you are passionate about a topic or share lots of information but what makes you shine is the personality factor.
Make the most of your archetype: Whatever medium you choose post regularly, be colorful and be yourself. But if you're in a corporate environment - don't forget you may need to censor yourself! Be sure to know your company's social media policy so your "Personality" doesn't get carried away.
You think deep. You might see a news story or have a small moment in every day life and it presents itself to you as a deeper revelation. You like to share these insights and your blog posts are lengthy and carefully crafted. You have wise perspective that others admire and enjoy.
Make the most of your archetype: Cultivate your philosophical musings and don't be afraid to share. Jot down ideas for blog posts as soon as they come to you. Find a topic you're passionate about so you can focus your philosophical musings on a consistent topic.
There's something that you really love - maybe it's guitars or programming or horses or french cooking or astronomy. Whatever it is, you LOVE it, and that's what's drawn you out into social networking where you can share your love with others like you.
Make the most of your archetype: Choose a niche community with shared interests to make your social networking home - this is where you can find others who get fired up about the same things!
One day you woke up and realized you possessed some expert knowledge. You might have cut your teeth and learned something the hard way. And you get a big thrill out of sharing what you know with other people. You like to help. You share instructions, tips, tutorials and helpful resources and you're always happy to answer a question.
Make the most of your archetype: Choose a niche community with shared interests to make your social networking home - this is where you can share your know-how with people who need it!
You're good at making people feel welcome. You love to read what other people write and share and then comment back. You probably have your own blog or Twitter account. And there's no doubt you love Facebook. But what you really enjoy is getting to know people via whatever medium you use.
Make the most of your archetype: Decide whether you want a wide social network or a deep one. If you want a deep one, pick a site or tool that you really love and connect with people in that environment. Consider choosing a niche - a certain topic you're passionate about - to build your relationships around.
That sassy looking girl over to the left with the strange hairdo looks like she thinks she's pretty cool, eh?
That little 11 year old girl actually happens to be me. A friend posted this photo in Facebook and looking at my past self triggered memories that inspired this blog post.
When I was eleven, I actually didn't think I was that cool. But I desperately wanted to be cool and popular, like many grade school kids. Unfortunately I was painfully shy, always waiting for others to come to me. My perception of the cool, popular kids was that they were popular because they were prettier than me, wore nicer clothes, were on the cheerleading team, etc.
It was only a few years out of high school that I realized that wasn't the case at all. For the most part, the popular people were the most friendly, fun, outgoing, confident people. They were the people that welcomed others, invited them out to lunch, and said hi in the hallway. It mattered not what their socio-economic status was, or how genetically gifted they were in sports or attractiveness. What mattered is that they made other people feel comfortable and wanted.
I've often wished I could go back in time and whisper this secret to my 11 year old self.
But I can benefit from it now, and I often do in the world of social networking, which isn't much different than grade school. Many people sit and wait for others to reach out to them, to be discovered, to be found. But the people who reach out to others, welcoming, sharing info, connecting groups of people, and championing people, miraculously find themselves in a world of friendly faces.
If you're willing to make the first move, to say hello, to make contacts, friends and allies, it's a world of opportunity. So... don't be shy!
I was excited to get my Amazon box this week with fresh books to read!!! First up is Social Networking for Business by Rawn Shah who happens to blog here at My developerWorks. I've been looking forward to checking this book out and picking up useful ideas. And then I've got Crochet Adorned by Linda Permann, an indulgence in a newly acquired hobby of mine.These will keep me busy for awhile... I like to mix a little business with pleasure. Not that business isn't often a pleasure too.Why tell you about my crochet book? Not because I expect many of the geeks here in My developerWorks to be into crochet. Although, who knows, maybe some of you are crocheting up the entire cast of Star Wars in your free time:
The reason I share this is because I find these little things I enjoy that are not directly work-related help energize my creativity, giving me fresh perspective when I return to work the next day. I was motivated to share this by a post by Behind the Pixels on My developerWorks. I think brain power and creativity grows with stimulation from many different places.
This is why I ask the people I interview on my blog about their passions outside of work. I like discovering interesting things about people that I never would've guessed. I've gotten to meet people like Andrew Larmour, who wants to build his own car; Rawn Shah, who teaches Japanese swordfighting; Jakub Gaj who loves surfing and capoeira; Alan Harris whose interests range from Krav Maga to bowling; and Chris Walden who channels his open source passion into volunteer work.
All of these people are passionate about technology, but they have whole other sides of their lives too - and it all works together. It's inspiring to me!