In May of 2010 I bought Strengths Finder 2.0, a strengths and behavioral test introduced to me by my friend Benson (searching orders on Amazon is amazing). It languished for a while on my bookshelf for 5 years when my wife took interest in it, and used up the test credit that came with the book in my stead. I was re-introduced to the book last summer when some of my colleagues took it to find the “personality” of our leadership team.

There is a strange satisfaction in spending a few minutes filling out a form and getting an instant response of essays that theoretically describe your person. Even more so if you totally agree with the observations. As of last July, my top themes were:

  • Restorative: People strong in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.
  • Learner: People strong in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.
  • Relator: People who are strong in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.
  • Analytical: People strong in the Analytical theme search for reasons and causes. They have the ability to think about all the factors that might affect a situation.
  • Responsibility: People strong in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.

Caricature of an engineering manager much?

I am an engineer at heart. I tinker. A lot. I drive my wife insane because I can’t leave a good enough thing alone. Over the weekend I put vinyl over the top of a BRAND NEW snowboard because I didn’t love the top graphics. A few years ago I bought a Hello Kitty Stratocaster with the sole intention of replacing every single part except the body1 in order to build a single humbucker acoustic/electric because nothing existed at my price point. Restorative.

I take a mikka bouzu2 approach to learning, but often end up a master of none. At my right hand here on my desk is a book on Mastering the Art of Race Driving, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, a sketch book for Krink markers, and an Algorithms textbook. I’m an addict. Learner.

In my job as an engineering manager I combine my Relator, Analytical and Responsibility roles. I look at people, product, process, and delivery as the fundamental elements of my day to day. None of this happens without building a great team that builds great solutions for users and delivers that day after day for the benefit of the company.

The opposite of a strength in an interview question is weakness. I have many of them and they’re probably different than yours. I have mentioned the Riot Games Engineering post on Debugging Titles before. The post goes in to the way they evaluate the core strengths of an individual engineer at Riot, but what I am most interested is actually the way strengths go on their way to build a high functioning team.

As I mentioned before, each member of our product group’s leadership team took the Strengths Finder test and we shared our results. It was fascinating to see the diversity of skills and strengths and where each of us ended up. But the thing that stood out most to me was how well we complemented each other, making for what in theory is a stronger team. Your personal strengths are important. I’d argue the sum of your team’s strengths are even more important.

  1. I kept the Hello Kitty face and attached it to my guitar case. There’s a story somewhere in there about how I met my wife.

  2. A Japanese expression which means “three-day monk”. It describes someone with lofty goals and great enthusiasm, who never sees the finish line.