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Is it Difficult for an Introvert to be a Mob Programmer?

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Aaron Griffith, Programmer Analyst at Hunter Industries, shared his experience of being part of the mob programming team in his recent blog on Mob Programming for the Introverted. Mob Programming is a software development approach where the whole team works on the same thing, at the same time, in the same place, on the same computer, defined by Woody Zuill, Senior Consultant - Agile Expertise and Coaching. This concept works well for extroverts, however it is not easy for introverts to work with a large group of people. Aaron mentioned that it is an enjoyable and rewarding exercise, but with a few challenges for introverts that are easy to overcome.

Aaron shares that introverts prefer smaller group settings, express themselves better when writing and like to have designated space reserved for work. In contrast, mob programmers work with whole team, have verbal conversations and work in an open floor plan. Therefore, It could be difficult for an introvert to be a mob programmer.

Matt Schartman shares his challenge of being an introvert mob programmer in his blog on My Experience With Mob Programming, as:

Being a fairly introverted person myself, the constant interaction is more of an energy drain than a lot of my previous work at the company, despite possibly being more fun. By the end of the work day I often find myself anxious to get home and recharge with a good book or a show.

Aaron as an introvert person works in a mob programming team and shares his insights to overcome these challenges. 

There are many different characteristics of introverts and extroverts. These characteristics have varying degrees of compatibility with Mob Programming. I don’t believe that any of these characteristics make Mob Programming as an introvert impossible, but some are more challenging than others.

He shares following suggestions:

My advice to an introverted Mob Programmer would be to just be you and be open to giving and receiving feedback. If you have a concern, let people know. Not everyone may be aware of the nuances of introverts and extroverts. Sharing your concerns, articles, and blogs about how introverts and extroverts complement each other and co-exist in a work environment can be helpful to everyone on the team. If you are an introvert that is new to Mob Programming be prepared to take some time to get comfortable just like you have done for all the other new environments and situations you have entered in your entire life. If you are an extrovert that is new to a team, have an open mind and consider that the one person who you think is unfriendly and cold could just be an introvert that hasn’t opened up yet.

Chris Holmes recently wrote a blog on Experimenting with mob programming, in which he shared his experiences working on UK government project using mob programming approach. He mentioned some areas of improvements which includes to make sure that more introverted team members do not feel too uncomfortable to help navigate.

After trying a few techniques as mentioned above, Aaron shares why he likes to be a mobber:

I have been a Mob Programmer for almost four years now. Given the choice, I would not work any other way. Mob Programming makes me a better developer, a better tester, a better leader, and a better person. I’m not exactly sure what it is about Mob Programming that appeals to me as an introvert, but I have an idea. Introverts value close friendships and are fiercely loyal, I think that’s what has drawn me to Mob Programming.

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