8

Being a good team player is like a must-have for nearly all developers nowadays.

However, I honestly believe that I work better (and happier) when working individually.

To elaborate,

I've worked in a medium sized company with medium sized teams with frequent meetings and lots of communication,

and I've worked in a small start-up where most work was individual and I at most had to collaborate with one other colleagues at a time.

And I felt much more productive and generally enjoyed work more in the 2nd case rather than the 1st case.

So does expressing (to future employers) that I work better when working individually give the impression that I am a bad team player?

  • 1
    One option is to work as a contractor. They go to less meetings. – paparazzo Aug 11 '16 at 18:54
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    If the company requires that you corroborate with a team, then yes. – Dan Aug 11 '16 at 18:56
  • Is your issue about the frequent meetings/communications or being inter-dependent with others on the team. – cdkMoose Aug 11 '16 at 19:33
9

You want a job that is a good fit, so be honest, and ask good questions.

You definitely want to be positive and phrase your answers in terms of what you want rather than what you want to avoid.


"What are you looking for in a job/company?"

I am looking for a position where I work on challenging, interesting problems. I preferred my past positions where the focus was on getting work done as opposed to numerous meetings to discuss what work needs to happen, which is why I'm a fan of Agile development, and part of what drew me to your job posting. Can you explain a bit about how you've implemented Agile here at AWESOME CORP?

If the company is all bureaucracy, they don't want to hire you, and you don't want to get hired by them, and now both of you have the opportunity to know that.

  • +1 sound advice. Good in reminding the OP that when you interview, you are also interviewing the company. – Retired Codger Aug 11 '16 at 19:08
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    "working as a team" != bureaucracy. I have worked on a number of teams that worked fluidly without managerial interference or bureaucracy. But I still needed to work with the other team members and not in isolation. – cdkMoose Aug 11 '16 at 19:17
  • I agree @cdkMoose, however the OP mentioned working individually and then described his negative experience as " frequent meetings and lots of communication". I (maybe wrongfully) interpreted that as "bureaucracy bad" rather than "teamwork bad". Only one-on-one meetings is, in my experience, extremely rare and undesirable (information transfer and design is really hard in only 1:1). Many 20+ person meetings is more common and equally undesirable. – Chris G Aug 11 '16 at 19:22
  • Fair point @ChrisG. Would be interesting to see where OP draws the line. I agree on frequent meetings, but lots of communication (EMAIL/chat?) is less of an issue to draw the line on IMHO. Other people do need to know what is going on. – cdkMoose Aug 11 '16 at 19:32
8

"Lone wolf" developers are quite poor. Part of the job description is, essentially:

  • Having your code reviewed by others
  • Sharing knowledge effectively
  • Asking questions when others may know the answer much faster than you

It really just sounds like you don't want to work for a crappy company that has way too many useless meetings. Join the rest of us.

I do not recommend marketing yourself as a lone wolf developer or as someone who dislikes collaboration. A preference for efficient companies without too many useless meetings is a good quality to have in a developer, however.

That's very normal. As others have said, interview the companies as aggressively as they interview you.

And, very general advice in interviewing: Do not discuss what was wrong with your last firm. The issue is not that you might trash talk them in the future -- it's just that frankly you don't sound good when you're negative. Better to talk about how great you were when you were heads down in code and collaborated about as much as you needed to, over how bogged down you were by useless meetings.

  • "Lone wolf developers are quite poor" Source? – VarunAgw Aug 18 '16 at 20:17
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    @VarunAgw the bullet points I wrote next. – user42272 Aug 18 '16 at 22:03
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    @VarunAgw one blog post blog.codinghorror.com/…. The very concepts of "bus number" and "code review" support that a substantial amount of teamwork is part of software development. – user42272 Aug 18 '16 at 22:08
1

There is nothing wrong with that. Just be honest so you wind up in a good position. Although I hate sports analogies, in American football, there is a position called "Kicker" and he acts, for the most part, alone.

Companies will ask you, do you work better in groups or alone. Tell them the truth or you'll end up in a team environment. There are plenty of roles in IT that are more individual than collaborative, just do your research and find something that is a good fit for you.

  • In your analogy, if the punter doesn't work with his center and linemen on timing or the place kicker doesn't work with his holder, lot's of bad things happen. They aren't as fully integrated with the team, but they cannot function in isolation. – cdkMoose Aug 11 '16 at 19:19
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    @cdkMoose It's the best I could come up with. I'm a computer geek, and have all the sports skills of... a computer geek. – Retired Codger Aug 11 '16 at 19:26
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    I think it's may actually be a good analogy for OP. The kicker doesn't need to interact with everyone, but still has has some limited interaction. You will often see kickers practicing alone on the kicking (OP developing on his own) and a smaller amount of time with the holder and linemen for timing (OP integrating his code with others). And bad things can happen if they don't have at least this lesser interaction. – cdkMoose Aug 11 '16 at 19:30
  • Maybe a goalie in hockey is a better analogy. There's a little bit of communication between them and the rest of the team, but they largely do their work on their own. – MK2000 Aug 11 '16 at 22:59
1

Any experienced software developer will work more "efficiently" on his own - but working on your own limits the size of a project that you can handle, and unless you are very, very disciplined it will lead to rubbish code because there is no code review, no second opinion stopping you when you make stupid decisions, and so on.

So when you say "I'm working better individually", that is actually meaningless because anyone does (except junior developers, who need a helping hand when something difficult comes up and will get stuck on their own).

You can look for jobs where a single developer is all that is required. Then you don't say "I work better as an individual developer" - you give them a reason why you can actually handle working on your own without the support of fellow developers. The most important qualities are that you must be good enough to handle anything thrown at you (because there's nobody to ask for help), and disciplined enough to properly design what you do before you get going, to document what you are doing, and to review carefully yourself and test everything you do.

And yes, if you come to a place that has a team of developers then an individual developer is not wanted. So saying that you work better on your own cannot possibly help you because you won't work on your own, and may lead to the assumption that you are not actually a good team player.

0

Play up your strength of being able to work independently.

This is also a highly desirable trait that employers are looking for. They want workers who can take the initiative to figure things out and solve problems on their own, without needing constant input or help from others.

Focus on this positive aspect, and support it with examples of how you were able to achieve success working on your own.

Do not, however, place this in opposition to working with a team.

"I work better independently than as a team" does come across inherently poorly. Even though it may be true, and not a bad thing, putting things that way will raise questions about whether you have the ability to work on a team. You need to emphasize your competence as a team player for pretty much any job.

Find a job that fits your preference by doing research and asking questions, rather than expressing this preference to potential employers.

Ultimately, saying "I prefer to work alone" to an employer does little good, because usually they are not going to adjust the way the role works to your preference, and you come across as potentially not a team player, as discussed above.

Instead, do your research and try to apply for the right jobs where you are likely to get the opportunity to work independently. Look at things like company size and the description of the role to help determine this.

Also, ask intelligent questions about the company's way of working, either at interview or even in a phone conversation before you apply, to try to understand what your role would be like. But do it as an information-gathering exercize, rather than outright expressing a preference. You can then use this to help evaluate which jobs are a good fit from you.

Finally, one word of warning: do not conclude too much from your experience at one company.

Are you sure you actually dislike working in a team? Or perhaps it was just the way the team worked at that particular employer? Working on a poorly managed team is a disheartening experience for nearly anyone. So, if you have limited workplace experience, it may be worth giving a more team-oriented environment another try.

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