There are many qualities that make a good engineer. This post is not about those. Instead, it’s about qualities that make me cringe and run away.

“The Downloader”

This personality type seems to be allergic to bullet points. No matter the question, the answer is always a complete download of every last bit of data. It can get quite painful to interact with people like this because shy of rudely interrupting them there is usually little you can do to stop the flow of information.

“The Story Teller”

A close relative of the Downloader, this person communicates through epic narratives. When asked for a status update for example, they start with “well, right after I got to work, I had a cup of coffee, talked to Joe about this thing for a few minutes, then checked email (got a weird one by the way, let’s talk about that later), worked with Alice for like an hour, took a break…”

There is nothing inherently wrong with story telling. In the right setting, it may even be desired. However, that setting is rarely at work.

“The Time Bandit”

This person has the uncanny ability to steal your time. He has many tools at his disposal to get that done: pointless conversation, never-ending problems, incessant complaints, and so on. In a lot of ways, Time Bandit is double trouble. He manages to both get nothing done and ensure that you get nothing done too. Truly the gift that keeps on giving.

“The Hamster”

This person works hard in the same way a hamster works hard: lots of activity with no observable forward progress. He can be quite difficult to deal with for two reasons. One, it’s kind of strange to fault a person for working too hard. Two, telling him that he’s not productive enough makes him work even harder, which in turn makes him even less productive. The whole thing quickly devolves into a vicious cycle with no obvious means to break it.

“The Bystander”

Instead of getting involved in the action and helping drive the bus, The Bystander is perfectly content to observe from the sidelines. Sure, he may occasionally contribute with a meaningless comment or superficial effort, but there is little difference between him and an empty chair. It’s also not at all unusual for this person to lack any passion for the work he does.

“The Debater”

This person hasn’t met an argument he didn’t feel was worth pursuing, no matter how tangential or immaterial it is to the task at hand. Even the fact that this exact argument was already settled (maybe even more than once) is usually not a deterrent. Just like a hunter lives for the hunt and is rarely satisfied by the kill, the Debater lives for the debate and is rarely silenced by the resolution.

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This post got 7 comments so far. Care to add yours?

  1. ish says:

    please make your next posting a listing of your favorite (as many as humanly possible) cliche’d sayings. those are my favorite Alex wisdom tid-bits. …PLEASE!

  2. Elis says:

    Yeah , I am just curious what kind of person you would like to work with and what make them the best engineer?

  3. The debater is probably the worst! I can definitely relate to that type, you say something, and then he suggests other things that are much worse than what you initially sad.

    I think the debater is a close relative of the story teller!

    • Alex Tatiyants says:

      Thanks for your comment Fadi!

      • Mack says:

        Good stuff. Introspection with a smile works for me. Don’t you think, the worst is dependent on what nerve ending is most exposed? My first thought after reading was, “We have met the enemy and he is us,” Pogo.

        Remember. It is not the starts and stops in life that do the damage. It’s the jerks.


        • Alex Tatiyants says:

          Thanks for your comment Mack! I do agree with you, the personality type that agitates you the most probably depends on what kind of stuff generally agitates you the most.