As I have navigated many years in the technology space one of my challenges has been that I am an introvert and I did not realize it for many years. What did Lynne, the introvert look like?
- I spent lots of time reflecting and strategizing, by myself, in my head
- After a day of presenting to customers or sales, I was exhausted from the experience
- I become frustrated when meetings were dominated by one or two people
For many years, I was uncomfortable in the technology industry, as the quiet one. I am in a job that requires extensive communication and networking. Over the last few years after taking the Myers Briggs Test, I have realized that the fundamental reason I was uncomfortable was because I am an introvert. Being an introvert essentially means my energy comes from the inside, not from the outside and the constant stimulation and social interactions can be taxing.
So how does an introvert survive in a job that requires lots of networking, communication, brainstorming, and non-stop interaction with peers, leaders, customers, engineers, and sales teams? Here are some of my practices that have enabled me to succeed and be my authentic self as an introvert:
- Own it. Once I realized I was an introvert, I decided to embrace it. I accept the fact that I am not going to be the loudest one in the room. I accept the fact that I am not great at networking with strangers. I accept the fact that I need to build personal relationships at work in order to truly collaborate and innovate.
- Recharge. In between meetings, I try to re-charge. This means putting on my headset and listening to music or doing a quick walk around the building. I need to recharge my mind and relax even for just a few minutes.
- Communicate. I tell people I am an introvert and what it means. When I am going to a networking event, I communicate to others that this is difficult for me.
- Leverage Other Ways to Communicate. Although I am not comfortable in a room full of extroverts, my face communicates everything I am thinking and feeling. If I am frustrated, I will fidget. If I agree with the person, I will lean forward in the chair and nod my head.
- Find an Image of Power. When I need to step outside my introverted self, I have a visual image that gives me the strength to be a temporary extrovert. That image is of a person, with their hands raised, sun shining, in the middle of the colosseum in Rome. I am full of power and am able to put aside the introversion and do what I need to do.
- Find Others. Once I recognized that I was an introvert and started to own it, I started to see others in the workplace who were also introverts. I made a point to befriend these other introverts. Once I found this community, we began sharing common strategies for how to be effective and innovate in an environment full of extroverts.
- Socialize. If I am left to my own devices, I will sit at my desk, work all day and never look up. But I realize that I need to form lots of connections at work so I make a conscious effort each day to connect with a few people socially. Even if it’s just a 5 minute chat by the coffee machine.
I love the fact that I am introvert. I love the fact that I am happy being able to go for a quiet walk, or listening to music, or savoring the joy of just being. To my fellow introverts, be authentic, embrace being an introvert, and find a community of like-minded introverts.