Are Engineers Introverts? 5 Things To Know

Are engineers introverts? Most are, but the media also poorly represents engineers as a whole. Because some are extroverts as well.

Growing up, the media bombarded me with a certain image of engineers. In movies, engineers almost always kept to themselves in a secluded office. All the while, they were unapologetically ordered around by business folks.

Now, having worked as an engineer for many years, I can see the source of this stereotypical label. There’s some truth.

To find the middle ground, we’ll parse out the truth from fiction by answering 5 questions.

1) Why does engineering attract introverts?

are engineers introverts

Let’s first define an introvert.

An introvert is someone who’s quiet, reserved, and quite possibly shy. This doesn’t mean you have a social phobia though, but rather you prefer to be alone. You’re okay sitting in an empty room by yourself for hours on end.

On the other hand, an extrovert becomes energized in social settings.

In the same vein, we’re all a behavioral blend of introvert and extrovert. But when it comes to pure technical work in engineering, introverts excel. This is because engineering requires endless deep thinking to solve complex problems. By default, this requires alone time.

Whereas someone who’s a social butterfly, will gravitate towards people-oriented fields. Such as doing sales, marketing, and business.

What’s more, many introverted engineers prefer their work over people interactions. And this is what makes many of these engineers incredible at their work. They’re laser-focused, and they view chit-chat and schmoozing as a distraction.

The stereotypical engineer portrayed by the media

At the beginning of this article, I touched on how the media portrays engineers. To some extent it’s true, but it’s also an over generalization.

I personally played many sports growing up. I even was a competitive bodybuilder. Then in college with my buddies, we’d hit the streets almost every weekend.

My point is, engineers fall in many different bucket types. But overall, the engineering profession attracts introverts due to the nature of the work.

2) Do all engineering fields equally attract introverts?

No. In fact, some engineering fields attract more extroverts.

For example, in my field of power engineering, I do a lot of socializing alongside design work. In fact, I believe power engineering houses more extroverts than introverts.

The following are some of my social activities:

  • Taking calls and answering emails throughout the day
  • Presenting to the public, government officials, and private sector
  • Interviewing for new projects
  • Speaking to other engineers, plant operators, and contractors

Now, compare the above to a semiconductor-type job. You may barely speak with another person, the entire working day. All because you’re cooped up in your lab with your headphones on hammering out work.

So, the level of your social interactions highly depends on your position type.

3) If you’re an introverted engineer, do you always remain introverted?

Elon Musk and Chris Anderson at TED 2017
Photo Credit: Jurvetson

It depends. Many introverts naturally gravitate towards engineering because it fits their personality. So, they’ll stay introverted until one of the following happens:

  • An outside force pushes them into a different position (e.g. promotion)
  • Due to financial reasons, they switch jobs more suited for extroverts (e.g. managerial work)
  • They want a new challenge

Now, I’m not saying your personality will simply slide from one extreme to another. But, you can nudge yourself in a given direction, when push comes to shove.

Look at Elon Musk. He wasn’t always this global icon, who speaks to huge crowds around the clock. His ambitious goals molded him into who he is today through baby steps.

Now, if you’re happy working as an introvert, it’s totally fine. But realize you may never reach your full potential as an engineer.

4) Do you need to be really outgoing to be a great engineer?

Of course not!

Pure technical positions cater perfectly to hermit type personalities. There’s an engineering position for all personality types.

To point out though, in almost every engineering position, you’ll work with others to some capacity. For example, engineering teams are found in almost all companies. These teams always include different personality types. And there’s a reason.

If everyone in a team was an introvert, a designated leader wouldn’t exist. Some engineers want to be visionaries and lead, while others want to be told what to do.

My point is, don’t feel you need to recreate yourself to be someone you’re not. You may not reach your full potential as an introvert, but you can still have a solid career.

5) Why becoming more extroverted will help you maximize your engineering career?

To maximize your engineering career, you DO need to be able to speak up.

It’s important to note, my definition of “maximize” is working on cool projects with awesome pay. This can be for an employer or starting your own business. Your definition of “maximize” may mean collecting a paycheck and going home at 5 PM every day.

Using my definition, your personality must allow you to do the following:

  • Be a leader
  • Confidently shoot down ideas from others
  • Schmooze with management and clients to build relationships
  • Network beyond your circle of colleagues
  • Face the heart of the storm when problems come up
  • Become an awesome presenter

Let’s go over an example.

When an introverted engineer runs into a problem, they may have a more difficult time solving it. Because of their difficulties in going and speaking with others. In return, this will delay the task and soon the project.

But an extroverted engineer will immediately go find help. They’ll quickly solve the problem, and then move onto the next task. This level of initiative is a key to success, promotions, and frankly building a business.

I wholeheartedly believe the synergy of technical and social skills is beyond powerful. Especially these days with globalization, and the proliferation of specialization work.

How to level up as an introverted engineer

To level yourself up, you need great communication skills, combined with unworldly confidence. You can’t be afraid to speak up.

For example, correcting a team of engineers who present an unsafe engineering idea. These engineers may be the loudest in the room, but this shouldn’t strike fear into you.

I know this is more difficult for introverts, but you need to practice. And it all starts by having a solid technical background. Your knowledge is the cornerstone to all discussions. You then need to step outside of your comfort zone to grow.

Check out the following articles I’ve written to further help you become more extroverted:

“Are engineers introverts” wrap up

From my experience, I find most engineers to be introverts. Introverts and pure technical engineering positions go hand in hand.

But no matter your personality type, you can find a fitting engineering position. To maximize your career though, you need to embrace social interactions.

You may even find you prefer to do work, which includes greater social interactions. I find the combination of social and technical skills to be a lethal skill combination!

Do you find most engineers to be introverts? Do you think engineering is a great career for introverts?

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