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Engineering Personas

A few weeks ago, Kongregate CRO Josh Larson related the diversity of our company as identified by an activity of having people take a Hogwart’s sorting hat quiz. We found out that, without any conscious effort, we had a relatively evenly distributed team. While this exercise was mostly done for fun, it does highlight a key concept to building a successful team: How do you balance the strengths and weaknesses of individuals to propel the team forward? What are the types of personalities you might encounter? Having spent 10 years both working on and leading engineering teams, I’ve found that most engineers tend to align to one of the following personas.

The Framework Facilitator

The Framework Facilitator is focused on the bleeding edge of changes in frameworks and technology. They have their ear to the ground on what new features are coming to versions of frameworks and are ready to adopt them whenever they are available. Oftentimes, they will also try to push for more ideal solutions than practical with the best of intentions. They thrive on being able to utilize advances in the team’s technology stack.

The Process Perfectionist

Advances in technology and frameworks can make for better products, but this person is concerned with helping to optimize how the team is building things and interacting with other teams, up and downstream from them. They are looking to streamline how stories get defined, implemented, reviewed and deployed. Metrics and charts tend to be their comfort zone. The Process Perfectionist will strive to continually reduce the amount of time spent waiting for something to get done.

The Entrepreneurial Explorer

When others are debating the best way to plan an iteration or which JavaScript framework to implement next, the Entrepreneurial Explorer is trailblazing a path ahead. They are grabbing the bull by the horns while simultaneously kicking it in the ass. Their main focus is to continue progress, on anything and everything. They are not only driving forward on all decisions but want to do so while pushing the pedal all the way down.

The Gratified Generalist

Debating technologies, refining processes, and breaking new ground are important, but someone has to have a broad approach. The Gratified Generalist has their hands in a little of everything and is willing to work on anything. They are often most happy just knowing what the next thing is to work on, regardless of what that thing might be.

Being able to identify these personas among your team is only a part of building an effective team. Any highly functional group is going to learn how and when to utilize these traits. You don't want a group of only magic users in a dungeon and you don't want only one of these personas on a project. It is probably inadvisable to form a team with even 2 or 3 of these personas. If you composed a team of just Framework Facilitators and Gratified Generalists, they may get stuck never making a decision about which technology to implement. Likewise, a team of Process Perfectionists and Entrepreneurial Explorers might end up with strife in how disparate their desired approaches would be. The best teams are going to find a balance of personas and let each one step up into their strengths, but will also be able to find constructive criticisms from those personas that don’t align with them.

As important as assembling a team of diverse personalities might be, being able to identify which one you might be and which ones might exist on your team can be equally beneficial. As a contributor, it can help you determine the best way to present a problem if you know that your audience is composed of personas differing from your own. If you find yourself on a team stacked with similar personalities, perhaps you can attempt to play the advocate for a persona that is missing.

Which persona do you identify as and which do you see on your team? Are there personas that you’ve identified that differ from those I presented above?

Author

Ryan Golec

Ryan is the Director of Engineering for Kongregate and self-identified Process Perfectionist. He works to lead and grow our technical staff and make sure their TPS reports are in on time.

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