Personality And Development

Thomas Allen at MIT has noted the correlation between effective communication skills and prospects for advancement and success in technical organizations. [BibRef-Allen1977] Individuals exhibiting extraordinary communications skills, and exercising those skills outside their line organization, he refers to as gatekeepers (see GateKeeper). They "control" — or, more accurately, facilitate — the flow of information between the development organization and scholastic and competitive sources.

One might expect a team of developers of a highly successful product such as QPW to follow this model. My observations of the QPW team were brief, but I was left with the impression that their personalities run contrary to this stereotype. "Nerds" would be a more apt characterization. However, individuals were able to communicate intensely with each other as a group, with intense stereotypical male-style communication dynamics. Only David Intersimone — an outsider — took the role of posing pointed questions to the group (probably to make sure certain points were clear to me).

While it is unclear exactly what their communication behavior would portend for success in a more structured setting, their technical prowess has earned them the highest positions of esteem at Borland. Perhaps one needs to bring Allen's models into question, at least as they apply to small, inbred developments (most of Allen's organizations were large, government or military contract projects).

One might consider evolutions of the AT&T development culture where such technical expertise could be a better harbinger of advancement. Different AT&T organizations have emphasized different professional qualities at different times as criteria for supervisory promotion: technical ability, coordination and interworking skills, administrative skills, and so forth. There is a common perception that in our current business environment, technical skills don't dominate considerations for reward or advancement to the same extent that they did in the heyday of academia in the 1960s and 1970s. They are clearly key to success in the Borland value system.