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Some programmers are not social individuals and are happy at their terminal all day. Others are more social. I have seen claims that "The happiest Americans report 7-8 hours of social interaction a day–face time, not Facebook".

What programming related jobs (i.e. jobs which require a background in programming.) highly value interpersonal skills? On the other end of the spectrum, which jobs require little in the way of interpersonal skills?

I have been in a few workplaces where it was dead silent and am trying to find jobs where that is not the case.

  • Hi, welcome to the site! I'm worried that there is nobody who could be an "expert" in this problem (in other words, no specific relevant experience or research applies to it). Is there any way you could focus the question on something more measurable, that doesn't just solicit anyone and everyone's opinion? – Nicole May 9 '12 at 4:27
  • How bout that? Still too vague? I know what I am trying to get at and was worried when I posted it that it was too nebulous. – Justin May 9 '12 at 4:35
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    Yes, I think it will work. Asking about the ends of the spectrum is definitely more answerable. We're still trying to define how the Stack Exchange guidelines can best apply to this site, so feel free to stop by Meta and help us! – Nicole May 9 '12 at 5:03
  • Not sure if this is a comment or an answer, but I think your focus needs to be more explicitly on the workplace and less explicitly on the job. I don't know of any specific software development job (except maybe technical project/product manager) that would "highly value" interpersonal skills. However, there are many different workplaces and environments where a software dev with those skills would absolutely thrive. – Jacob G May 9 '12 at 13:47
  • I had worded the question more that way to begin with, but as Nick pointed out, it would be hard to find an expert in that area so I edited it out. Still not sure if the question is appropriate and how to word it if it is. Might bring it up on meta. – Justin May 10 '12 at 1:39
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I think teams that work in a true Agile development environment experience interaction on a similar level to what you are talking about.

Also believe it or not the more women you have on your team, the better off you are with regards to social intelligence (which also, consequentially drives productivity and team performance)

Second, there is a strong positive correlation with the number of women on the team and team performance. Women make teams smarter than men. Full Stop.

Why? Those of us with a Y-chromosome will be relieved to know that there is a similar correlation with social sensitivity and team performance. Women generally rate significantly better at social sensitivity than men. The researcher states, "what it suggests is that if you don't know the social sensitivity of a group, it is a better bet to include females than not." "The team also found that groups in which members took turns speaking were more collectively intelligent." (New Scientist)

So, if you're looking for a smart and well performing group with excellent social interaction, you'd be well served looking at companies that both practice agile development methodologies and have a solid men/women ratio.

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    Really interesting article! – bethlakshmi May 9 '12 at 18:16
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Agile is certainly a good bet - I don't know of many/any teams working in an agile enviroment that don't have a healthy respect for the power of the team over the power of the individual. Pair programming, too, is likely to be a helpful indicator of how much time you spend day to day with another person.

I'd offer the thought, however, that non-Agile doesn't necessarily mean no-interaction. Here's a few other situations that may be high on the human interface:

  • GUI designers and anyone who designs stuff in a highly collaborative environment with regular people (customers and/or users).
  • Support people and trainers - people who are responsible fixing customer issues - usually have to collaborate with both customers, and other team members.
  • Managers - not an entry level job - but one where your level of human interaction will go through the roof.
  • Sales engineers - may or may not actually program - many do mock-ups and proofs of concept - to help convince the customer that what they want is doable.
  • Professional services - often a lot more customer-interfacing than a pure product development team.

The key here is that the job can vary widely both in terms of interal vs. external communication. Some of these roles may have lots of human interaction, but they may not be everyone's cup of tea, because they may be mostly focused on communication with non-technical people - which may or may not be energizing depending on your personality.

I'd say the best indicator of all is to talk to the interviewer of any particular job. Although all the jobs I mentioned are usually high interaction, I can think of a case in point for each one where I've seen examples of the job having very little human interaction, due to the nature of the business or project.

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For more interaction at the developer level look for places that pair program. Also positions that might require more interaction are maintenance programmer who deals with immediate production issues. Frequently they need to talk directly to users.

At a higher level, all management positions (including tech leads and sr developers who mentor others) require people skills and interaction and jobs such as architects, systems analyst, DBA, business analyst are all jobs that require more interaction.

You might also consider the workplaces where the users are internal (or specific clients)tend to have more interaction than the ones where they create Commerical-Off-the-Shelf software or web sites designed for the general public. That's because their users are available to talk to and get clarification from when needed. They also tend to want to talk to developers about their issues when teh developers are handy.

Another area with a lot of interaction is in reporting and ETL. This is espcially true in ETL if you need to coordinate imports and exports of data with an external party (we have more interaction when we develop a feed that needs to go to the client and then return something to us after they have processed it for instance). And if you are an export at developong business reports, you wil almost certainly havea lot of management interaction as they are always thinking of new things they want reported on.

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