IT personality types: 8 profiles in geekdom

Forget Myers-Briggs. Here are the true archetypes that underlie the IT breed


In the workplace you'll generally meet three kinds of personalities: Type A, Type B, and Type IT. The last are a breed apart from the rest.

We're not sure what it is about technology that draws certain types of people while repelling others. Maybe it's all those electrons spinning through millions of miles of circuitry; maybe it's just the lack of sunlight and human interaction.

In any case we've identified the eight classic personality types you'll find in virtually any reasonably sized IT department. Some are suits who've been exiled to IT against their will or sharks who would happily sell ice to the Inuits once they got done selling sand to the Saudis. Others are of the more typical geek persuasion -- from scary system administrators and angry support drones to those who'd rather blend into the shadows or do their best to shoot down any project that ventures inside their crosshairs.

We bet many -- if not all -- reside in a nearby cubicle at this very moment. Consider this your field guide to the flora and fauna of your work life.

IT personality type No. 1: The Empty Suit

Job title(s): Department manager, business analyst

Profile: Hired to be a liaison between top-level management and the techies -- with whom top-level management, or anyone on the business side, would rather not deal directly. Acts as a go-between during client visits to keep the geeks at a safe distance. Has memorized most of the important acronyms and mastered the art of nodding knowingly in meetings and then surfing Wikipedia afterward to find out what everyone was talking about. May possess an MBA from a dubious online university.

"This guy may not be the most detailed thinker, but he's the most popular guy on the team -- and he would agree," says Tim Jewell, CTO at Data Deposit Box, which provides online backup services for SMBs. "If you're looking for some fun, ask him a complex technical question and watch him wiggle around the room. Despite this, he's the only one who can talk to customers because he has verbal ability and may actually care about what the end-user has to say."

Despite making him the butt of inside tech jokes, the geeks at times flock to him because he's the only one in the department with a remote chance of picking up chicks, Jewell adds.

  • Hobbies: Picking up chicks
  • Last book read: "The ClueTrain Manifesto" (Cliff Notes only)
  • Greatest accomplishment: Consistently losing at golf to the C-level executives, despite possessing a single-digit handicap
  • Identifying marks: Cheap knockoffs of Brooks Brothers suits
  • Role model: Michael Dell
  • Most resembles: David Brent (Ricky Gervais) in "The Office"

IT personality type No. 2: The Scary Sys Admin

Job title(s): Network administrator, database administrator

Profile: Your company can't run without him -- and he knows it. Fortunately, he likes dealing with machines far more than people, so you can rest easy, confident that he spends way more time keeping your systems up and running than may even be necessary. Friends? Who needs friends? That's why God invented computers.

"This is the person on the team who will agree to do the 48-hour server upgrade on the weekend and have everything up and running by 6 am Monday -- all for two extra-large pizzas and a case of Red Bull," says Jewell. "He's very helpful around the office because people interact with him -- unlike his dolls at home."

But get on his bad side, warns Jewell, and you'll find yourself swiftly locked out of all your computer accounts -- and possibly your home and your bank accounts as well.

  • Hobbies: Getting certifications; writing network security subroutines in binary code to safeguard logic bombs or surreptitious SQL queries to the HR database
  • Last book read: "Get Even: The Complete Book of Dirty Tricks"
  • Greatest accomplishment: Holding the network hostage by refusing to release passwords to the Empty Suit
  • Identifying marks: Handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit
  • Role model: Terry Childs
  • Most resembles: Terry Childs

Next page: The Human Roadblock and The Angry Support Drone

Find your next job with computerworld UK jobs

"Recommended For You"

Security vs. Freedom: the oversight question The thoughts of Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch